If you have been ordered to appear in Immigration Court (also called the Executive Office for Immigration Review or EOIR) for removal proceedings, don’t delay in looking for an attorney to help you. Whether or not you can afford to pay your lawyer, there are simply not enough of them to meet the existing level of client need.
Recently published data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), which combed through EOIR records, showed that whether a non-citizen facing removal proceedings is likely to succeed in finding legal representation depends in large part on what region of the United States the person lives in.
If you are especially lucky, you live in or near Honolulu, Hawaii. There, your chances of finding an attorney to represent you at the EOIR are better than 90%—you even have a decent chance of finding pro bono (free) or reduced-fee help.
The situation is also fairly good for immigrants in Manteca, California, Pontiac. Michigan, and Dover, New Hampshire—in all of those places, the odds of finding legal help are between 70% and 80%.
But your odds of finding an attorney drop down dramatically, to below 30%, if you live in Northeast Dallas, Roma-Los Saenz, Rio Grande City, or Huntsville, Texas; in Coral Springs-Margate or Boynton Beach-Delray Beach, Florida; or in one of many parts of Georgia, including Atlanta-Decatur, Chamblee-Doraville, Folkston, and Tucker.
No matter where in the U.S. you live, searching for an attorney should be the first thing you do after receiving a Notice to Appear in Immigration Court (an NTA). Even in places where there are plenty of attorneys to choose among, it’s a choice that should be made carefully, seeking someone who is skilled, experienced with your particular type of case, has a good reputation with the local judges, and with whom you feel comfortable. (See Nolo’s articles on Choosing, Hiring, or Firing an Immigration Attorney.)
Besides that, a good attorney will want to spend many hours getting to know your case, preparing documents to try to defend your right to stay in the U.S., and helping you and any witnesses prepare for your day in court.
Effective Date: August 7, 2017