December 6, 2018
IRLI reveals deal with anti-borders lawyers despite prohibition by federal law
WASHINGTON – An investigation by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) has revealed that the Obama-era U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in apparent violation of federal immigration law, awarded multiple high-value contracts, worth over $310 million, to a single nonprofit group in 2015 and 2016.
All of these contracts were awarded for the purpose of providing legal representation to unaccompanied alien children (UACs). UACs are defined as aliens under 18 years of age who have no lawful immigration status in the United States and, supposedly, no parent or legal guardian in the United States available to provide care and physical custody. A significant percentage of UACs (the vast majority of whom are from Central America) have ties to MS-13 or other gangs.
The funds went to the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera), a nonprofit group that provides immigrants with access to legal services. (One of Vera’s former directors, Christopher Stone, also served as president of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations from 2012-2017.) The contracts require Vera to provide “direct legal representation” to UACs, recruit and train pro bono attorneys, and facilitate continued legal representation once a UAC is released to a sponsor – frequently an illegal alien. So far, the federal grants have paid for legal representation of UACs in removal proceedings and removal appeals throughout the nation.
The Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 292, states that aliens in removal proceedings “shall have the privilege of being represented (at no expense to the Government).” Immigrant special interest groups, sometimes on behalf of unaccompanied minors, have tried since 1996 to challenge this section, claiming it violates aliens’ rights. Federal courts have always rejected these claims.
Even though the use of federal funds to provide direct representation to UACs appears to violate federal law, the Obama administration continued to provide funding to Vera for these illegal aliens, knowing that taxpayers would face significant hurdles if they attempted to sue the federal government to halt the payments. To date, HHS has obligated over $232 million to Vera, with its network of legal services subcontractors, to provide these services, and HHS likely plans to obligate the $78 million remaining on the contracts.
“When the federal government pays for illegal alien minors to receive direct legal representation, it does more than flout the law,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “These unauthorized payments have undoubtedly speeded-up UACs’ release from detention facilities to join their families, relatives, or fellow gang members – or help them reconnect with and pay ‘pandillas,’ the criminal cartels that make enormous profits from controlling human trafficking over the southern border. My guess is that average voters would not be pleased to know that such vast amounts of their tax dollars are being spent in aid of this giant criminal enterprise.”
For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • [email protected]
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