The U.S. Justice Department has ordered a Seattle-based immigrant rights group to halt a large part of the work it does to advise immigrants of their legal rights and help them fill out paperwork.
The nonprofit Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sued the Justice Department Monday in federal court in Seattle, saying the order would force thousands of people to go without legal help in deportation cases. The group says the DOJ's demand violates its First Amendment rights.
“It’s hard to speculate on what is their motivation, but it certainly doesn’t conform to any sense of justice or fair play that you're depriving literally thousands of people of any opportunity for legal assistance,” said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project’s Seattle office.
Adams said the purpose of the rule is to “prevent notoriety fraud and attorney misconduct.” However, Adams argued that the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project “prominently” displays their logo on documents so they can be held accountable if something goes wrong.
“It seems completely ridiculous,” Adams said.
The organization helps provide free legal representation to more than 200 immigrants a year. However, it also provides lesser help to hundreds more, such as by assisting with asylum claims.
The DOJ sent a cease-and-desist letter last month saying the organization cannot provide such legal help unless it undertakes formal representation of a client.
KING 5's Heather Graf contributed to this report,