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Amid immigration crackdown, cities step in with free legal aid

Teresa Wiltz, Stateline.org on

Published in News & Features

Michael Mpras sits in the courthouse lobby with his clients, looking worn out. These days, he says, he and his law associate, who is his nephew, are scrambling to handle about 1,000 active cases. He's busier than ever, he says, and he worries that things will just get worse.

"The volume of cases is huge," said Mpras, who moved to the U.S. from Greece in 1959. "And the burden of proof is so high."

As of September, there were 629,051 pending cases in immigration court -- an all-time high, according to the TRAC Immigration Project at Syracuse University. The average case had been pending for 691 days.

Outside Hong's courtroom, Milian talks about her struggles finding an immigration lawyer. One, she said, wanted $2,000 just to set up an initial appointment.

But now, she says, she has no choice if she wants to stay in the U.S. She knows the judge is right. Somehow, she says, she'll find an attorney. She's scared, but she's got hope, too.

 

"I think I can do it," Milian said. "I've got a chance."

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