Envisioning Community Paralegals in the United States: Beginning to Fix the Broken Immigration System



For decades, immigrants have been unable to access justice in the United States. The country has consistently failed to meet its international and domestic due process obligations. Given that universal representation for all immigrants is impractical, this Article posits a new strategy. It calls for legal empowerment, and in particular, the expansion of community paralegal programs. By centering and building the capacities of affected communities themselves, these programs are a sustainable, low-cost, culturally sensitive, and necessary tool to move towards justice. While community paralegals do not replace attorneys, they guide and assist immigrants as they navigate the complex immigration system, teaching them how to know, use, and shape the law to demand their rights and seek relief. Additionally, in some ways going beyond attorneys, they provide quasi-legal and emotional support and solidarity to create client satisfaction and confidence, challenging some of the underlying causes of injustice. This Article calls on policymakers, lawyers, activists, and others to create, foster, and support such programs as part of their efforts for immigration reform.

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