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Congressional Hispanic Caucus Questions DOJ’s Review of the Legal Orientation Program

Oct 5, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Members, led by Rep. José E. Serrano, sent a letter to  James McHenry, the Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) at the Department of Justice expressing concerns with a recent EOIR report on the Legal Orientation Program (LOP).

Earlier this year, DOJ announced its intention to terminate the LOP, which helps immigrants facing removal proceedings understand their rights and responsibilities in an immigration court setting.  This announcement directly contradicted specific direction from House and Senate Appropriations Committees, which required continuation of the Legal Orientation Program. Given clear congressional intent, Attorney General Sessions subsequently announced a decision to continue the program consistent with these instructions, but also his intent to conduct a program evaluation. The EOIR recently completed Phase 1 of the program evaluation and is currently working on Phase 2 and Phase 3.

Earlier this year, Tri-Caucus members also sent a letter to DOJ demanding that the agency reverse suspension of the LOP. Soon after sending the letter, Attorney General Sessions announced that the LOP would not be terminated. A copy of that letter can be found here.

“This report is the first product of that review.  Unfortunately, it appears tainted in such a way as to justify further efforts to eliminate the program.  Serious questions have been raised regarding the methodology used to make these determinations, including the information and assumptions used in your regression analysis.” the Members wrote.

The Members continued: “We ask for a copy of this report in order to better evaluate the program, and all background documents related to EOIR’s analysis. The Legal Orientation Program provides basic due process to individuals in detention who are facing deportation.  It has previously been found to be efficient, effective, and necessary.  We believe that an unbiased report, looking at all data, will come to a similar conclusion.  Moreover, we are concerned that absent more information and more rigorous analysis, the problems with the Phase 1 analysis will also occur in the Phase 2 and Phase 3 reports.”

In addition to Rep. Serrano, the following members of the CHC signed the letter: Rep. Lujan Grisham, Rep. Castro, Rep. Gallego, Rep. Aguilar, Rep. Espaillat, Rep. Soto, Rep. Grijalva, Rep. Napolitano, Rep. Barragan, Rep. Gomez, Rep. Gonzalez, Rep. Sanchez, Rep. Sires, Rep. Velasquez and Rep. Correa.

The official letter can be found here.

TEXT OF LETTER

October 05, 2018
Mr. James McHenry
Director
Executive Office for Immigration Review
U.S. Department of Justice
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 2600
Falls Church, VA 22041

 

Dear Director McHenry:

As Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, we write to express our deep reservations about a report recently released by the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) entitled LOP Cohort Analysis (Phase 1).  We believe that this report incorporates flawed, biased assumptions and analysis in an attempt to undermine the Legal Orientation Program (LOP).  Past studies have concluded that this important program helps our immigration court system to save money and time, and we are concerned that this study will be used as pretext to attempt to end the program.  In the interest of full transparency, we request that the Department publically release all data and analyses related to the Phase I review and any other taxpayer-funded analysis related to LOP, including the recent analysis performed by the current LOP contractor.

Earlier this year, the Department announced its intention to terminate the Legal Orientation Program, as well as the Immigration Court Help Desk Program.  Both of these programs help immigrants facing removal proceedings understand their rights and responsibilities in an immigration court setting.  This announcement directly contradicted specific direction from the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, which required the program to be funded at previous year levels.  Given this clear congressional intent, Attorney General Sessions subsequently announced a decision to continue the program consistent with these instructions, but also his intent to conduct a program evaluation.

This report is the first product of that review.  Unfortunately, it appears tainted in such a way as to justify further efforts to eliminate the program.  Serious questions have been raised regarding the methodology used to make these determinations, including the information and assumptions used in your regression analysis.  Additionally, the data included in your study leaves significant gaps that appear to bias the results, including only looking at completed cases,  failing to include other factors that can influence case length, and failing to isolate order of removal in abstentia.  These serious problems undermine the conclusions that the study reached.  We understand that the Vera Institute, which is the primary contractor for the LOP program, has submitted a report with very different results.  We ask for a copy of this report in order to better evaluate the program, and all background documents related to EOIR’s analysis.

The Legal Orientation Program provides basic due process to individuals in detention who are facing deportation.  It has previously been found to be efficient, effective, and necessary.  We believe that an unbiased report, looking at all data, will come to a similar conclusion.  Moreover, we are concerned that absent more information and more rigorous analysis, the problems with the Phase 1 analysis will also occur in the Phase 2 and Phase 3 reports.  We look forward to your response that includes the statistical analyses used; all the results and the Vera Institute’s Final LOP Case Time Analysis so that we have a complete picture of this data and can review all of this information in more depth.

 

Sincerely,

 

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