Austin/San Antonio – American Gateways is relieved to learn that Attorney General Sessions has decided to “un-pause” funding for the Legal Orientation Program (LOP). As we have long maintained, this program guarantees access to accurate and essential legal education for underrepresented and low-income immigrants facing deportation. Moreover, this program improves the efficiency of the immigration court system and ultimately produces a net savings for taxpayers. “This is tremendous news for the immigrants we serve,” said Rebecca Lightsey, Executive Director. “They will be able to get basic, critical information about the legal process and their legal rights through our incredible team of lawyers and case workers.”
We were heartened to see such an outpouring of support for the immigrant community when the program cuts were announced. From religious leaders and elected officials to supporters throughout the community, people spoke up and stood up for immigrants’ rights to due process. We especially thank Representatives Doggett and Castro, as well as State Representative Gina Hinojosa for their outspoken support.
Nevertheless, the temporary cessation of LOP funding underscores the vulnerability of low-income immigrants throughout the region and the country, particularly those in detention and facing deportation. “Access to basic legal information, if not full-on representation, while going through a court process with such high stakes should be guaranteed,” said Lightsey. “The basic human rights of tens of thousands shouldn’t hinge on a single funding stream.” As we continue to serve our LOP sites, American Gateways will continue to strengthen and expand our existing programs to ensure that they are sustainable over the long term. We also call on the Trump Administration and our elected officials to do more to protect the rights of immigrants guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and international human rights norms.