2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Adina Appelbaum

Adina Appelbaum

City, State: Washington, District of Columbia
Issue area: Immigrant Populations
Sponsors: The Arnold & Porter Foundation

The Project

Adina will expand holistic deportation defense representation for detained immigrants with criminal convictions who have significant family and community ties throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
There is no right to a public defender in immigration court and therefore, the vast majority of detained immigrants lack access to counsel, including those with criminal convictions. The growing nexus of criminal and immigration law, or “crimmigration,” has enmeshed convictions and deportation: in FY2013, 59% of deported immigrants had been convicted of a crime, primarily for minor offenses such as traffic violations or simple drug possession. Many immigrants facing crime-based deportation have significant family and community ties, are legal green card holders, and serve as family breadwinners. Moreover, an estimated 4.5 million U.S. citizen children have an undocumented parent at risk of deportation. Minor violations and mistakes – that many Americans make – can mean the double, disproportionate punishment of banishment from society and permanent separation from family. Yet the impact of access to immigration counsel is clear. In New York alone, 74% of non citizens who are represented secure relief from deportation, compared to 13% who lack counsel. Although detained non citizens with crimes have the most complex arguments to make against deportation, and may be eligible for relief if such arguments are made, they are often the least likely to be placed with pro bono counsel.
The Right Person For This Project: 
Adina is the right person for the project because:
• She provided legal aid to refugees and immigrants abroad in Egypt and Ecuador and at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas
• In law school, Adina represented detained clients in both immigration and criminal clinics as well as focused on immigration policy through a joint degree in public policy
• After a joint internship at the MD Office of the Public Defender and CAIR Coalition last summer advising detained immigrant clients across the criminal justice and immigration systems, she is ready to the hit ground running
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship: 
In the first six months, Adina will:
• Build a network of pro bono attorneys dedicated to representing detained immigrants with convictions facing deportation through advocacy, recruitment, and trainings
• Provide test case representation to clients based on priority categories of non citizens most disproportionately affected by crime-based deportation
• Initiate process for DC, MD, and VA criminal public defenders to refer detained clients who meet test case priority categories
• Draft crim-imm pro se materials and advisories

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