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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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Day two of David Pecker testimony wraps in NY Trump trial; Supreme Court hears arguments on Idaho's near-total abortion ban; ND sees a flurry of campaigning among Native candidates; and NH lags behind other states in restricting firearms at polling sites.

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The Senate moves forward with a foreign aid package. A North Carolina judge overturns an aged law penalizing released felons. And child protection groups call a Texas immigration policy traumatic for kids.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

ACLU: Due process rights violated in Omaha immigration courts

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Friday, February 16, 2024   

Immigrants whose cases are heard in Omaha's Immigration Court are often denied their due process rights, according to a report from the ACLU of Nebraska.

Data were collected from more than 500 pretrial hearings between April and August 2023. Due process violations included judges not informing people of their rights more than 80% of the time. Interpretation services were almost always provided in Spanish, rather than an individual's "preferred language."

Dylan Severino, immigration legal fellow at the ACLU of Nebraska and lead author of the report, stressed the errors are violations of immigrants' legal rights.

"We saw a lot of evidence that many of them weren't given proper access to procedural due process rights that our Constitution guarantees," Severino reported. "We're talking about life or death here sometimes, with asylum, people are being sent back to countries where they're scared they're going to be killed."

Other concerns include the extremely short duration of most pretrial hearings -- typically under four minutes -- and roughly 20% of the immigrants did not have an attorney. Severino argued "universal representation" could be a solution: publicly-funded counsel for anyone facing detention or deportation who can't afford one.

Severino pointed out immigrants who have an attorney are at least 10 times more likely to start on the path to legal immigration, and added it usually benefits far more than just the individual.

"It means they can work legally. They set down roots; they pay taxes from their work, and their children do the same," Severino outlined. "Even just a few years out, we have enough people who have legally immigrated, who are now working, that the project starts paying for itself."

At least 55 U.S. jurisdictions in 21 states have implemented universal representation.

Severino emphasized most immigrants want to contribute. He cautioned against focusing on data and statistics rather than the circumstances many of them face.

"We're talking about people here, who came to this country to try to make a better life for themselves, and who are ready to improve our country as well," Severino contended. "We're an immigrant-reliant country for our economy, but also for our culture. Until recently, it's always been a point of pride."

The 2023 Fairness to Freedom Act, which has been referred to the Judiciary Committees of both houses of Congress, would make universal representation a federal law.

Disclosure: The ACLU of Nebraska contributes to our fund for reporting on Civil Rights, Criminal Justice, Immigrant Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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