Maryland’s Immigration Court Crisis

Underrepresentation of Immigrants


Syracuse University‘s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) released a report revealing a severe crisis in the immigration system, including Maryland’s, underscoring a significant decline in representation rates for immigrants facing removal proceedings. This alarming trend highlights the urgent need for more immigration attorneys to ensure fair and efficient court proceedings in Maryland.

The Growing Backlog and Attorney Shortage in Maryland
The U.S. Immigration Court system is overwhelmed with an unprecedented number of cases. By the end of 2023, Maryland’s immigration courts faced a backlog of 63,330 cases. Despite the growing demand, the number of available immigration attorneys has not kept pace. Five years ago, 65% of immigrants in the court’s backlog had legal representation. Today, this figure has plummeted to just 38% in Maryland.

This shortage of attorneys not only jeopardizes the fairness of court proceedings but also exacerbates administrative delays, making it harder for immigrants to navigate the complex legal landscape. Maryland’s representation rate, though higher than the national average of 30%, still reflects a significant gap that needs to be addressed.

The Importance of Legal Representation
Immigration attorneys play a crucial role in ensuring that court proceedings are both fair and efficient. They help alleviate administrative burdens and facilitate a more functional legal process. However, unlike in criminal courts, immigrants do not have the right to a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford one, leaving many to fend for themselves in a challenging legal environment.

Without legal representation, immigrants, especially those seeking asylum, face significant hurdles. They must navigate intricate U.S. immigration and asylum laws, often in a language they do not understand. This lack of representation severely limits their ability to successfully file and pursue their claims.

The Need for More Attorneys in Maryland
Maryland’s representation rate of 38% indicates that a substantial number of immigrants are still unrepresented. This shortage is due to several factors, including the uneven distribution of legal resources and the lack of adequate support for nonprofit programs providing legal aid.

Efforts to increase the number of immigration attorney representation in Maryland must be prioritized. This includes support for nonprofit organizations like Luminus Network that offer pro and low bono services and initiatives to address this disparity.

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