Point, Click, Green Card: Can Technology Close the Gap in Immigrant Access to Justice?

60 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2017

See all articles by Elinor Jordan

Elinor Jordan

Michigan State University - College of Law

Date Written: October 24, 2017


Immigration benefits transform lives. They can take a person from undocumented to documented or from noncitizen to citizen. My recent article, What We Know and Need to Know About Immigrant Access to Justice, 67 S.C. L. REV. 295 (2016), discussed the access to counsel crisis for noncitizens in deportation proceedings. However, we lack a scholarly assessment of the extent to which the problem of inadequate access to legal services extends to affirmative immigration benefits cases and how to fix it.

After providing initial empirical support for the notion that a lawyer can be helpful in seeking immigration benefits, this article describes a “donut hole” in access to immigrant legal services. That is, the realities of practice in immigration benefits create an especially pronounced gap in assistance for low-income noncitizens.

Next, this article asks how technology can deliver more legal services to those seeking immigration benefits. Across other areas of law, a spirited debate over entities like LegalZoom and pro se software has been taking place, but no such contribution has been made in the unique immigration context. This article gives a taxonomy of the existing tech platforms offering immigration support by probing their terms of use and confidentiality statements, and analyzes the applicability of legal ethics standards to such platforms.

Lastly, the article charts a prudent, nuanced path forward for using technology to close the justice gap. It suggests that good can come from these immigration endeavors if tech platforms are used to streamline rather than supplant the attorney-client relationship.

Keywords: Immigration, Access to Justice, Legal Services, Technology

Suggested Citation

Jordan, Elinor, Point, Click, Green Card: Can Technology Close the Gap in Immigrant Access to Justice? (October 24, 2017). Georgetown Immigration Law Review, Vol. 31, p. 287, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3058085

Elinor Jordan (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

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