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International Institute of Akron Hopeful About Biden Immigration Plans


The head of the International Institute of Akron says the Biden administration’s recent immigration orders are encouraging, but there’s more to be done.

Madhu Sharma says she’d like to see more federal funding for legal resources to help immigrants who are facing deportation or detention.

“I think there is no single thing that would make a bigger impact in restoring dignity than de-criminalizing immigration, returning it to a civil justice system, and then to the extent that people are subject to the court, they should have access to counsel," Sharma said.

“They already don't speak the language, and they're in a system of justice that even Americans don't understand. Immigration law is the most complex area of law in our country next to, perhaps, tax law. And federal judges have acknowledged that."

And she says there’s already a model in place for that: the existing refugee case management process.

“If you have a case manager and a lawyer, you're more likely to navigate our immigration justice system in a way that we don't have to worry that people are going to disappear and not show up because they actually have access to the resources they need to get the relief that might be available to them,” Sharma said.

She added that the need for more representation in Ohio was clear in 2018.

“We saw the largest immigration enforcement actions in our nation's history," Sharma said. "Over 250 Ohio residents were detained, and at that same time there simply weren't enough immigration lawyers in the state who are qualified to protect constitutional rights of our residents. It's a federal area of law, so the federal government really ought to fund the basic integrity of our system.”

In his first days in office, Biden proposed a bill to create a path to citizenship for 11 million people and placed a 100-day moratorium on immigration enforcement to review existing policies.

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Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. A graduate of Hudson High School, he received his Bachelor's from Kent State University. While a Kent student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.