University of the District of Columbia Law Review


Carla L. Reyes


Of the approximately 400,000 immigration cases pending before federal immigration courts across the country,' approximately fifty percent involve pro se respondents.2 Although empirical evidence shows that a foreign national's chances of receiving a favorable ruling doubles when an attorney represents him or her in removal proceedings, a unique confluence of history, legal tradition and policy climate have restricted immigrants' access to counsel to a ten-day window in which the immigrant may seek representation of his or her own choosing at no expense to the government. Although removal proceedings are, by definition, civil proceedings, they nevertheless involve physical detention and the possibility of permanent removal from the United States. These circumstances make the immigration system a unique case study for exploration of the civil right to counsel.

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