In the medical profession, triage refers to sorting medical resources in
emergency situations based on the greatest need for immediate attention.
Similarly, legal service providers talk about “triaging” cases to prioritize
individuals with the most serious problems. But in the immigration field,
the concept of triage is turned on its head. Noncitizens with the riskiest
cases—those facing deportation—have the least access to legal
assistance, especially if they are detained.
Technology has the potential to help with triage but is not yet being
used effectively to assist with deportation defense. This Article argues
that utilizing technology to facilitate access to representation for detained
noncitizens would help address that gap. It examines not only how legal
service providers can use technology such as automated online assistance,
mobile apps, and specialized websites that facilitate collaborative
representation and complex legal analyses to triage immigration cases,
but also how technology in detention centers and immigration courts can
facilitate access to representation.
Simple things such as access to tablets and email for detained
individuals to communicate with counsel; attorney access to laptops and
cell phones in detention centers and courtrooms; a supplementary option
of remote video visitation and appearances for representatives; and
electronic access to immigration files (A-files) would all facilitate
representation. Additionally, the Executive Office for Immigration
Review (EOIR), which is the agency within the Department of Justice
that includes the immigration courts, could create online platforms to
implement a nationwide pro bono program and, more ambitiously, to
establish a National Database of Detained Noncitizens that would help
connect detained individuals with representatives.
This Article contends that Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
which prosecutes immigration cases, and EOIR have every incentive to
adopt these technologies in detention centers and immigration courts because increased representation helps them triage their own enormous