A judge in Seattle has temporarily blocked a Justice Department decision that immigrant legal rights organizations around the country say would curtail much of the work they do.
U.S. District Judge Richard Jones issued his ruling Wednesday immediately following oral arguments in a lawsuit brought by the nonprofit Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
The Justice Department last month told the group it cannot provide certain legal assistance to immigrants unless it undertakes formal representation of them in court. The nonprofit says it doesn't have the resources to do that, and the order would force it – and similar groups around the country – to give up preparing motions and other documents on behalf of immigrants who represent themselves.
Jones said the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project made a credible showing DOJ's action would violate its constitutional rights and limit its work - forcing many immigrants to go without legal help.
The DOJ declined to comment on the judge's ruling.
The director of a Seattle-based immigrant rights group says his organization is eager to get back to work.
Jorge Baron, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, says his attorneys have been turning away requests for legal assistance from three to four dozen people a week, many of them in detention, since the Justice Department sent a cease-and-desist letter last month.
The ruling drew positive reaction from Seattle-area leaders as well. King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a Facebook post he was grateful for the decision.
“Now more than ever, we need to provide legal services for immigrants and refugees,” Constantine wrote.