Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered an astonishing decision in Padilla v. Kentucky. The Court held that the Sixth Amendment requires defense attorneys to advise their clients of deportation consequences of their criminal charges and pleas. Failure to do so amounts to ineffective assistance of counsel. This decision completely changes the landscape for immigrants facing criminal charges.
Open Society Institute grantees involved in the Defending Immigrants Partnership have been working for years on this issue and are now getting the word out to the criminal defense community to help institutionalize Padilla. As partnership member Benita Jain of the Immigrant Defense Project told me, “In some ways, this is the Gideon v Wainright for immigrants.”
But the work that must be done to implement this decision is daunting, Jain says. Every public defender office and criminal defense attorney will need to understand the implications of Padilla and learn how to comply with it. Public defender offices will need to build institutional structures to fully and accurately integrate immigration counsel into their work.
Immigration advocates such as the Immigrant Defense Project, the National Immigration Project, and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center are working already to saturate existing defense attorney networks with practical information on what Padilla means for them, publicize the available resources, and develop a framework for a strong interpretation of the Padilla advisory.
These organizations want defense attorneys to understand that “help is here, and more help is on the way,” according to Jain. “We are working to ensure that Padilla has the colossal impact on the representation of immigrants that we hope and expect it to have, as soon and as smoothly as possible.”