Annual Meeting 2010

ABA Backs Free Immigration Counsel for Indigent Defendants

Noncitizens charged with crimes should be entitled to free legal counsel on immigration matters if they cannot afford to hire their own lawyer, the ABA’s policy-making House of Delegates said Monday. The measure passed by an overwhelming voice vote.

Resolution 100C (PDF) calls for federal, state and local governments “to provide funding to state and federal public defender offices and legal aid programs specifically for the provision of advice about the immigration consequences of criminal proceedings.”

In its 2010 ruling in Padilla v. Kentucky, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment requires defense counsel to competently advise a noncitizen defendant regarding the immigration consequences of a guilty plea to criminal charges. Guilty pleas involving even misdemeanors can sometimes result in deportation.

An estimated 10 percent of criminal defendants are noncitizens, according to the report that accompanied the resolution.

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