Programs for Detained Immigrants

The Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center provides comprehensive legal services to immigrants in detention, focusing its services on immigrants detained in the York County Prison and the Berks Family Shelter. PIRC’s Programs for Detained Immigrants are focused on two major programs, the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) and the Vulnerable Populations in Detention Program, in addition to education and outreach.

Legal Orientation Program (LOP)

The LOP, administered by the Vera Institute of Justice through a contract with the Department of Justice, Executive Office of Immigration Review, educates detainees on immigration law, immigration court procedure and the availability of legal remedies to individuals who are or may be in immigration removal proceedings. PIRC strives to reach each of the immigrants detained at the York County Prison and Berks Family Shelter, providing legal education, legal assistance, and when possible, direct legal representation (under separate funding). Since 2006, PIRC has provided legal services to over 10,000 foreign nationals. 

As one of approximately 17 nonprofit, legal service organizations nationwide authorized to provide the Legal Orientation Program (LOP), PIRC provides LOP services in English, Spanish and other languages that include:

  • Group Legal Orientations: PIRC provides group legal orientation presentations an average of three times per week at York County Prison and once per month at the Berks Family Shelter. Interactive, multilingual group orientations take place as soon as possible prior to the detainee’s initial hearing before the York Immigration Court.
  • Individual Legal Orientations: For unrepresented detainees who desire assistance in understanding their particular legal situation, PIRC conducts individual legal orientations. Through the LOP individual orientations and self-help workshops, PIRC prepares detained immigrants in pro se representation before the Immigration Court empowering individuals to successfully represent themselves.
  • Self-Help Workshops: PIRC provides self-help workshops for detainees interested in pursuing relief from removal and offers self-help materials such as asylum or habeas packets, and country conditions research.
  • Pro Bono Referrals: Through the LOP, PIRC promotes and facilitates pro bono representation to detainees identified as having meritorious cases to PIRC’s in-house direct representation programs or outside volunteer attorneys, law schools, and legal clinics. The assistance and advocacy of pro bono attorneys is invaluable in serving the greatest number of vulnerable immigrants in detention. For more information on offering pro bono legal assistance, click here.

Vulnerable Populations in Detention

Through PIRC’s Vulnerable Populations in Detention Program, PIRC renders services such as direct representation and pro se assistance to indigent individuals who are currently held in immigration detention in Pennsylvania, serving primarily detained immigrants in York County, and detained families in Berks County.

Under this program, PIRC provides targeted assistance and pro bono services to detainees in removal proceedings who are particularly vulnerable due to serious mental or physical illness or past persecution and torture. This legal representation helps these vulnerable individuals navigate complex proceedings and helps them seek immigration relief, including protection under the Convention Against Torture, Asylum, Cancellation of Removal, Withholding of Removal claims, and Adjustment of Status for Refugees. Through this program, PIRC also cultivates collaborative relationships with national and local advocates and volunteer experts. In 2017, PIRC also became a provider of representation through the National Qualified Representative Program(NQRP), a nationwide program to provide representation to  detained respondents who are found by an Immigration Court to be mentally incompetent to represent themselves in immigration proceedings.

Community Defense Project

Launched in 2017, the Community Defense Project serves immigrants in the community and in detention, providing education, referrals, and legal services to protect immigrants from deportation, link community members with their loved ones and critical resources, and seeks to keep immigrant families together.

If you have a loved one in detention and need help with referrals or information, please email [email protected] 

Legal Orientation Program 

The LOP produces many positive outcomes including more expedient case processing and more effective preparation of individuals who represent themselves in proceedings.  Detained immigrants who receive LOP services move through the Immigration Courts more efficiently than defendants who do not receive this pro se education and assistance. The LOP legal orientations and workshops help individuals to recognize whether they have a legal remedy to removal, resulting in less time spent in detention.  Click here for more information.