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Federal Judge Rules Groups Can Resume Legal Assistance For Immigrants

A Seattle-based immigrant rights group has scored a major victory against the U.S. Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A federal judge has granted the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project request for a nationwide temporary restraining order  that will allow the immigrant rights group to resume its legal work on behalf of immigrants. The work of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project was curtailed in April after the Justice Department issued a “cease and desist” order. The letter from the Justice Department said that, unless the group was formally representing a person in court, it couldn't provide legal assistance.

One of the main things the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project does is help asylum seekers and others fill out the paperwork necessary to go before an immigration judge.  But Executive Director Jorge Baron said the cease and desist order made that impossible.

“We could tell them to fill it out on your own and not do what we normally do, which is to take it on and help them fill the application and and help them understand how it’s done properly,” Baron said.

The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the U.S. Justice Department.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones issued his order shortly after a hearing in court.

In issuing his order, he said the Justice Department requirements would cause irreparable harm by forcing many immigrants to go without legal help. The Justice Department had argued they were just trying to prevent fraud. But the judge rejected that argument.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.