Long before Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), the U.S. Supreme Court in Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135 (1945), recognized that deportation may deprive an immigrant of “all that makes life worth living” and that “meticulous care” is required to ensure that the “depriv[ation] of liberty . . . meet the essential standards of fairness.” Yet one of the most essential guardians of fairness—a lawyer to represent immigrants in deportation hearings against government prosecutors—is denied in nearly 50 percent of all cases, and even more often in cases involving detained immigrants. This denial persists even as the Court has recognized and reaffirmed repeatedly in the last dozen years that for non-citizens facing expulsion, deportation is often a far more severe consequence than a criminal sentence.
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