Point, Click, Green Card: Can Technology Close the Gap in Immigrant Access to Justice?
60 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2017
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.
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
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