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Columbus Families Together Fund supports legal representation of Columbus residents targeted for deportation and detention

The Columbus Families Together Fund, established by the Columbus City Council, supports legal education and representation that keeps immigrant families together and safe - and helps stop deportations of people who have been members of the Columbus community for years.

There is a significant unmet need for representation and immigration advocacy for low-income immigrants in Ohio. As there is no guaranteed right to an attorney in immigration proceedings, those who cannot afford a lawyer usually face deportation without having an attorney to help them in a complicated legal proceeding.

In 2018, there were more than 10,000 removal cases pending before the Cleveland Immigration Court, which has jurisdiction over all of Ohio. Available data shows that nearly half of all immigrants in removal proceedings in Ohio are unrepresented; when detained, almost 90% are unrepresented. Meanwhile, studies demonstrate that those with counsel are ten times more likely to win their cases.

The majority of deportation cases in Ohio emanate from Columbus and Franklin County. The Columbus Families Together Fund fills a clearly defined gap in services to the City’s residents and their families. The CFTF provides immigrants with a chance to have their fair day in court with a lawyer, someone to educate and counsel them about immigration law and relief requirements and answer their questions about the detention and removal process. The program helps to restore dignity, humanity, fairness, and justice in the immigration system.

The importance of CFTF funding was amply demonstrated in the summer of 2018 when ICE began detaining Mauritanian residents of Columbus at their routine ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) check-in appointments. Black Mauritanians had been previously permitted to stay in the United States despite having decade-old removal orders because the U.S. government recognized that, if deported, these individuals would likely face imprisonment, enslavement, and torture.

With the assistance of CFTF funding, ABLE has represented Mauritanians detained at the Butler and Morrow County Jails and advocated for their safety before the Board of Immigration Appeals and Circuit Courts of Appeals.

After being detained for long periods in jails here in the United States, ABLE’s representation resulted in the release of some detainees and the potential for grants of asylum.

About the author

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) is a non-profit regional law firm that provides high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity.