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A 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization

Equal access to justice

At SEVA legal help organization.

Our mission is to render equal access to justice for those who cannot afford adequate legal counsel and the right to receive a fair trial.

Court Room
Court Room
Photos by "The Seattle Times"
Immigrants, when they set on US soil, come with dreams and aspirations of a better life. It is very often the case that these individuals or families have been uprooted from their homes and forced to leave their countries due to war and carnage or crime, and they have risked everything to build a brighter future for themselves and their generations to come. The land of the free and the home of the brave promises them just that, but just when it all seems within reach, their lives are once again threatened with upheaval. They find themselves being targeted by the very people from whom they sought refuge. This insecurity of life and future is something no law-abiding and upstanding member(s) of society should have to deal with. That’s why the dedicated team of attorneys, legal assistants, and advocates at SEVA take it upon themselves to deliver this justice to those who are denied of it simple on account of trivial differences and unfortunate circumstances. We work tirelessly to make sure no immigrant has to fight for the most fundamental human rights of safety and security on their own. SEVA was founded with the vision of helping detainees in need, and will focus all its efforts towards relentlessly trying to provide them with access to fair trial justice.

Why SEVA is important?

  • It has long been the case that immigrants have a right to counsel in immigration court, but that expense has generally been borne by themselves, because deportation is classified as a civil, as opposed to a criminal sanction, immigrants that are at risk of deportation are not provided the constitutional protections under the Sixth Amendment that are provided to criminal defendants. In the criminal justice system, all defendants facing even one day in jail are provided legal representation if they cannot afford it on their own, whereas immigrants facing deportation are unjustly denied that very same privilege. Detained immigrants, particularly those held in remote locations, face the additional obstacle of only being able to access counsel from behind bars, which can not only extremely dehumanizing for the detainee, but also causes hindrance in the process of legal counsel. What’s worse is that the government is always represented by a seasoned attorney who can argue in favor of their deportation. Whereas quite frequently, the pro se immigrant against them, has only themselves to argue for their case.
  • Research has highlighted the importance of counsel for asylum seekers, and regional studies have highlighted the key role attorneys play for immigrants navigating immigration courts in New York and California.
  • American Immigration Council Special Report, Access to Counsel in Immigration Court, Ingrid Eagly, Esq. and Steven Shafer, Esq. Sept. 28, 2016, presents the results of the first national study of access to counsel in U.S. immigration courts. Drawing on data from over 1.2 million deportation cases decided between 2007 and 2012, the report provides much-needed information about the scope and impact of attorney representation in U.S. immigration courts. The main findings of this study include:
    • Access to counsel is scarce and unevenly distributed areas across the United States Nationally, only 37 percent of all immigrants secured legal representation in their removal cases.
    • Immigrants in detention were the least likely to obtain representation. Only 14 percent of detained immigrants acquired legal counsel, compared with two-thirds of non-detained immigrants. Immigrants with court hearings in small cities were more than four times less likely to obtain counsel than those with hearings in large cities (11 percent in small cities versus 47 percent in large cities).
    • Immigrants with attorneys fare better at every stage of the court process. Represented immigrants in detention who had a custody hearing were four times more likely to be released from detention. Represented immigrants were much more likely to apply for relief from deportation.
    • Detained immigrants with counsel were nearly 11 times more likely to seek relief such as asylum than those without representation (32 percent with counsel versus 3 percent without).
    • Immigrants who were never detained were five times more likely to seek relief if they had an attorney (78 percent with counsel versus 15 percent without). Represented immigrants were more likely to obtain the immigration relief they sought.
    • Among detained immigrants, those with representation were twice as likely as unrepresented immigrants to obtain immigration relief if they sought it (49 percent with counsel versus 23 percent without).
    • Represented immigrants who were never detained were nearly five times more likely than their unrepresented counterparts to obtain relief if they sought it (63 percent with counsel versus 13 percent without).
  • As is discernable from the above statistics, the lack of appointed counsel has a profound impact on immigrants’ ability to receive a fair trial. Further stacked against these persons or families is the fact that many of them arrive in this country without little more than a few pennies to their names, and affordability of legal representation, let alone that of a competent nature that would help them win their cases, is most often out of the question. That is why SEVA and organizations of its kind are so important. The people who seek refuge in this country should have the same rights as any other to become productive members of American society and become assets to the country. These people have intrinsic worth just by the fact that they are here and are willing to fight and work for a better life. Those of us, like Nilima and her team, that have had the privilege of becoming US citizens have a duty towards those that come here with the same dreams.