You hear it in every cop show, in every crime drama: “You have the right to an attorney.”
It’s true. Anyone arrested on a criminal charge in the United States has the right to an attorney, even for an infraction as small as shoplifting, when you’re only facing a small fine or a few months in county jail. No matter the punishment, or the crime, you’re guaranteed a lawyer, even if you’re not a citizen.
But if you’re arrested and brought to immigration court, that’s a whole other story. The stakes are really high; you’re facing deportation, often to some of the most violent countries in the world. Deportation can be a death sentence.
And you are on your own.
The reality of the American immigration legal system is that undocumented immigrants are treated like criminals without the rights guaranteed criminals. Since President Donald Trump took office, more and more immigrants are caught in this system.
Enter Oakland, California.
While the federal government is trying to deport as many immigrants as possible, Oakland is running a policy experiment to help immigrants stay in their communities. The city is giving as many immigrants as possible attorneys in court, free of charge.