After receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the Department of Justice (DOJ) that barred it from providing limited legal assistance to people in immigration court, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) turned to its longtime law firm partner, DWT, for help. We filed a lawsuit challenging the DOJ’s unconstitutional enforcement efforts and quickly won a temporary restraining order.

Two months later, the court granted our team’s motion for a preliminary injunction, enjoining the DOJ from enforcing its cease-and-desist order and from similarly targeting other nonprofit organizations around the country. The judge agreed that the DOJ’s demand was a violation of NWIRP’s free speech rights and could deprive many immigrants of access to legal assistance. Jaime Drozd Allen and Jamie Corning argued the case, and Laura-Lee Williams, Robbie Miller, and Michele Radosevich contributed on briefing.

The results were critical because there is no right to a public defender or appointed counsel in immigration court. While NWIRP is able to provide full representation in some cases, the majority of people in deportation proceedings have no attorney. NWIRP has historically provided limited assistance to help those individuals file essential paperwork and advise them on their cases. The cease-and-desist order had forced NWIRP to withhold or limit legal assistance to hundreds of unrepresented persons (the majority of which were detained). Thanks to this legal victory, NWIRP can continue to fulfill its mission of providing direct legal services to the immigrant community.