Removal Defense

The Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center provides comprehensive remove defense legal services to immigrants, focusing its services on immigrants detained in Pennsylvania. Through its Removal Defense Programs, PIRC provides services in three major areas to individuals at risk of detention or deportation: legal orientation (LOP), direct representation, and pro bono placement.


Legal Orientation Program (LOP)

The LOP, administered by the Acacia Center for Justice through a contract with the Department of Justice, Executive Office of Immigration Review, educates detained immigrants on immigration law, immigration court procedure and the availability of legal remedies to individuals who are or may be in immigration removal proceedings. PIRC strives to reach each of the immigrants detained in Pennsylvania at the Moshannon Valley Processing Center and the Clinton Correctional Facility, providing legal education, legal assistance, and when possible, direct legal representation (under separate funding). 

As one of approximately 18 nonprofit, legal service organizations nationwide authorized to provide the Legal Orientation Program (LOP), PIRC provides LOP services in English, Spanish and other languages that include:

Since 2006, PIRC has provided legal services to over 10,000 foreign nationals. 

Group Legal Orientations: PIRC provides group legal orientation presentations an average of three times per week in prison and once per month at the Berks County Family Shelter. Interactive, multilingual group orientations take place as soon as possible prior to the detained immigrants’ initial hearing before the Immigration Court.

  • Individual Legal Orientations: For unrepresented detained immigrants who desire assistance in understanding their particular legal situation, PIRC conducts individual legal orientations. Through the LOP individual orientations and self-help workshops, PIRC prepares detained immigrants in pro se representation before the Immigration Court empowering individuals to successfully represent themselves.
  • Self-Help Workshops: PIRC provides self-help workshops for detained immigrants interested in pursuing relief from removal and offers self-help materials such as asylum or habeas packets, and country conditions research.
  • Pro Bono Referrals: Through the LOP, PIRC promotes and facilitates pro bono representation to detained immigrants identified as having meritorious cases to PIRC’s in-house direct representation programs or outside volunteer attorneys, law schools, and legal clinics. The assistance and advocacy of pro bono attorneys is invaluable in serving the greatest number of vulnerable immigrants in detention.


National Qualified Representative Program (NQRP)

In 2017, PIRC also became a provider of representation through the National Qualified Representative Program(NQRP), a nationwide program to provide representation to detained respondents who are found by an Immigration Court to be mentally incompetent to represent themselves in immigration proceedings.

Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project (PAIFUP)

The Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project (PAIFUP) is a collaborative of nonprofit organizations in Pennsylvania formed to achieve universal representation for detained immigrants in removal proceedings in the state. Launched in 2019, PAIFUP is Pennsylvania’s first publicly funded defense counsel project for detained immigrants.

There are no eligibility criteria other than income and a lack of private counsel. We do not exclude individuals based on prior criminal convictions, residency, or any other reason. Unlike other legal providers, our high quality, zealous representation is merits-blind. Clients are represented without considering the likelihood that the case will have a particular outcome in the immigration court. We are committed to our clients and will represent them throughout their entire case until a final decision is made.  

For more information, please visit the PAIFUP website.