Senator VillanuevaSPRINGFIELD – Legal representation to those in immigration proceedings should be a fundamental right, State Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago) argued this week as she passed the Right to Counsel in Immigration Proceedings Act in the Illinois Senate.

“Having an immigration lawyer at your side dramatically increases the success rates of your case,” Villanueva said. “We must create a fairer legal system so that all residents, regardless of status, have an equal opportunity at justice.”

Current law provides the right to legal representation in immigration proceedings, but at the defendant’s own expense. Villanueva’s measure creates a task force to study how to guarantee legal counsel to all those in immigration proceedings by July 1, 2022. Those who qualify would include people who are subject to removal proceedings.

Villanueva’s legislation is inspired by the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project. This program has achieved a 1,100% increase in success rates for their clients when compared to people who did not have counsel in their proceedings.

The legislation, House Bill 25, passed the Illinois Senate and will go to the House for concurrence.