Dear Prince Harry,
We want you to know that we stand beside you. If the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detains you, we will defend you. Unfortunately, like tens of thousands of immigrants in this country, your admission to minor drug offenses could be a deportable offense that separates you indefinitely from your wife and two children.
But we want you to know that we will fight for you.
Even though President Joe Biden pardoned U.S. citizens last year for certain possession offenses, he did not pardon you, a noncitizen. Most drug offenses mean mandatory detention for noncitizens in this country, with no opportunity to leave a prison-like environment. If you are detained and ask to be transferred to a detention center closer to your wife and children, you will likely not prevail. You could be forced to decide between permanently living with your family in the United Kingdom or from the confines of a detention center pending deportation.
Harry, we want you to know that you are not alone.
Most immigrants in your situation would likely be locked in detention. In fact, in the U.S. capital region, thousands of mixed-status families like yours face separation every year. Our data at Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition shows that just around Washington, D.C., an average of 1,000 fathers a year are separated from their children because of ICE detention. Unfortunately, these detention numbers continue to rise.
Thank you, Prince Harry, for having the courage to speak your truth
Prince Harry can be a voice for immigrants who are silenced
The government puts countless resources into surveilling immigrant communities – the Department of Homeland Security and ICE probe immigrants’ social media accounts. Photos and posts are wielded against them to deny bond, accuse them of drug use and other crimes, and allege they are in criminal organizations and gangs.
In contrast to your experience, what can become damning in their cases can be as simple as the color of the clothes they wore in a photograph or revealing a new tattoo. Yes, that is often enough to keep immigrants behind bars.
Biden unveils 'get-tough' asylum policy: What if Trump and Republicans were right on Title 42 and immigration?
Harry, you might face deportation, but at least you can afford an attorney.
Most noncitizens in the United States aren't entitled to court-appointed legal counsel, and 70% of those with deportation cases have to face prosecution alone. Without the right to an attorney, people are forced to fight their own cases in a language often not their own, gather their own evidence, examine witnesses and defend themselves against highly-trained government lawyers and judges.
An immigrant with legal representation is over 10 times more likely to prevail in their case than someone without.
Those without the benefit of counsel disproportionally face not just family separation but returning to persecution and death.
Harry, please use your voice for others who do not have a platform to advocate. Millions of immigrants face removal without an attorney, but there are bills such as the Fairness to Freedom Act that would guarantee counsel to immigrants in removal proceedings. You can uplift and support these bills that would provide attorneys for immigrants in deportation cases like yours.
Until then, we will continue to defend one another.
Eric Lopez is a deputy program director at the Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition based in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. He earned a juris doctorate from the University of Illinois College of Law.
You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Will Prince Harry be deported? How his immigration experience differs