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Legal Representation for Illegal Immigrants

Legal Representation for Illegal Immigrants

The opinion-page article "Deporting Refugees Who Miss Asylum Deadline Is Dangerous," June 20, unfairly blames the tragic death of a Cuban immigrant on a new federal law that bars federally funded legal-services lawyers from representing illegal aliens. Mariella Batista was murdered on May 7 by the estranged father (Felipe Mirabal) of her 9-year-old son while awaiting a custody hearing outside the family- court building in Riverside, Calif. (not in Los Angeles, as the author states). Because of the recently adopted restriction, legal services turned down her request for a protective order against Mirabal. The author's claim that this got her killed is baseless. Batista had obtained the services of a pro bono lawyer by the time she arrived in Riverside. But it would not have made any difference whom she had for a lawyer. Mirabal walked up to Batista, snatched her son, and shot her. Batista and Mirabal had to be at the hearing at the same time, and an order wouldn't have given her police protection while she waited. The sheriff's deputies who killed Mirabal after he murdered Batista would still have been inside the building and unable to lend assistance. To argue, as the author does, that this justifies removing the restriction on legal-services representation of illegal immigrants is to ignore the facts of the case.

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John K. Carlisle

Vienna, Va.

Policy Analyst, National Legal and Policy Center

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