Migration Information Portal
A web platform providing information about the U.S. immigration legal system to low-income displaced people.
What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)
Displaced people en route to their destination or facing deportation back to dangerous conditions often lack access to reliable, affordable legal counsel. Access to a competent lawyer dramatically improves a person's chances of obtaining legal status and avoiding deportation. Non-detained immigrants with attorneys are nearly five times more likely to win their cases than those without counsel. However, there is no right to free counsel in immigration court, not even for unaccompanied children or mentally incapacitated people. There are not enough nonprofit attorneys to serve low income communities, and too many nonprofit attorneys don't have the training or resources to effectively serve all their clients.
Most low-income migrants turn to private attorneys or non-attorney "notarios" (notaries), who often provide deficient or fraudulent counsel with impunity. Outside of the U.S., coyotes (smugglers) may fill the role of providing key information about migration procedures. For these reasons, many people are deported who might have had viable legal defenses or channels to lawful migration if they'd had competent counsel they could afford.
The Migration Information Portal will be a web platform providing information about the U.S. immigration legal system to low-income displaced people in or en route to the U.S. The main feature will be a bilingual (English/Spanish), searchable, Q&A-style message board where displaced people can post questions about immigration law and procedures which will be answered by vetted immigration attorneys and experienced community organizers. In the face of a complex and inscrutable immigration legal system designed to fail displaced people, the Migration Information Portal will help put critical information in the hands of the people who need it most.
Geography of focus (500 characters)
For now, this project will target displaced people living in or en route to the U.S. This is where I am based and where my legal expertise lies. U.S. practices and policies are also amplified globally, for better or for worse, so innovations may have an impact on displaced people elsewhere. If successful, this project could be expanded to other locations.
Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)
Being stripped of a legal identity is a profoundly alienating experience. Undocumented, unauthorized, and stateless people are intentionally excluded from support systems, leading to physical and mental isolation with lasting negative effects on individuals, families, and communities. Removing legal impediments between displaced people and the communities they live in will help everyone thrive and reduce societal conflict.
What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)
Governments repress displaced people by stripping them of their legal identity through immigration restrictions that prevent them from obtaining fair and safe employment, prohibit political participation, and facilitate incarceration and ejection from the territory. The Migration Information Portal will empower displaced communities to navigate complex legal systems designed to stigmatize, repel, and expel them. The Portal will facilitate safe arrival and help preserve the liberty that is necessary for people to establish themselves and to flourish.
What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)
The Portal will help people on the move access legal channels of entry and defend against deportation. It will help them identify qualified counsel to represent them in immigration proceedings. It may help some avoid deportation proceedings by steering clear of bad attorneys or notarios. Having reliable information about the immigration system, users will be better able to hold their attorneys accountable. The site may also be a resource for organizers, advocates, and attorneys who may have questions about immigration law and procedures.
The platform’s impact will be measured by engagement by users. This can be measured by the number of questions posted and answered, pageviews, and visitor counts, all of which can be tracked using existing data analytics tools. Users who post questions will be able to rate the quality of the answers. If the site is well-trafficked and the content is consistently reliable, then the Portal will be likely to create positive change.
What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)
Displaced people are disadvantaged by the current legal system in two principal ways: (1) lack of access to counsel, and consequently, lack of access to information about immigration law as it applies to their situation, and (2) an imbalance of power and information between client and attorney that attorneys often use to manipulate or defraud their clients. If people on the move had access to reliable information about immigration law and the deportation process in a language they could understand, they would be better able to determine when an attorney would be needed and what the attorney's role should be, and they would be better able to hold their attorneys accountable.
Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)
Millions of noncitizens in the U.S. live under the threat of deportation by an aggressive and hostile federal government. The federal legislature cannot settle on any sort of legalization program for immigrants, but has agreed that border security and national sovereignty should trump individual human rights. Central Americans and others suffering from violence, poverty, and repression are attempting to travel to the U.S. to find safety and create a better life for themselves. These displaced people are targeted by multiple governments collaborating to make them legal nonentities so that they can be exploited by corporations and scapegoated by politicians for political gain. Reliable information about the legal system could serve as a lifeboat to help carry displaced people to safety and security.
How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)
Free Migration Project has represented over 200 immigrant clients since its founding in 2016. We currently provide legal representation in cases involving asylum, unaccompanied minors, DACA, family petitions, and victims of trafficking or domestic violence. We represent each of the three families living in sanctuary in Philadelphia. We work closely with undocumented community organizers to promote the rights of immigrant communities. This work provides valuable insight into the needs of undocumented communities in the U.S. We have learned that when displaced communities have the tools they need to navigate hostile geographic, legal, and economic systems, they are empowered to make their way and thrive.
What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)
With assistance from web developers, FMP will create a web platform to provide information about the immigration legal system to immigrant communities. Currently, the team at Detention Lifeline is providing guidance and feedback. The Q&A and wiki-style site will be searchable so that a body of useful knowledge is created over time. It will be open to the public, and the information created will free for all to use. The group of people authorized to respond to questions posed by community members will be limited to trusted immigration attorneys and potentially to other experienced practitioners (e.g., community organizers, "accredited representatives," and law students involved in practical clinics).
What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing
Arriving and settling at a destination community
Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing
Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology
Idea Proposal Stage
Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.
Group or Organization Name
Free Migration Project
Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)
Free Migration Project works at the intersection of law and community organizing to promote the recognition of freedom of movement as a basic human right. We envision a world where borders no longer impede essential human liberty and development. Through our programmatic work, we fight for immigrant rights and support the immigrant community.
If FMP makes progress towards our big-picture objectives, including shaping norms and public opinion to support human rights relating to migration, then legal and political changes may follow. This would reduce the complexity and punitive nature of the immigration legal system, making immigrants less dependent on lawyers who don’t adequately represent their interests. If FMP’s work is successful, someday a web resource like the Migration Information Portal might not be necessary. But that day remains distant, and the need for a resource such as this right now is critical.
Type of submitter
We are a registered Non-Profit Organization
Organization Headquarters: Country
Organization Headquarters: City / State