The Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition is the only non-profit organization in the Washington, D.C. area with a legal services program focused exclusively on assisting detained immigrant men, women, and children in jails and juvenile facilities in Maryland and Virginia.

Each year, the U.S. government detains nearly 400,000 immigrants. Adult immigrants who are arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia are detained in local jails in Virginia and Maryland (there are no immigration detention beds in DC). These five facilities have a contract with ICE to house immigrants while their removal proceedings are pending, a process that can take many months, if not years. Each year, the staff of the Detained Adult Program provides “Know Your Rights” presentations to over 4,000 detained immigrants and conducts intakes with more than 1,000 of them during monthly or bi-monthly jail visits.

Because there is no right to appointed counsel in immigration court, we face a pressing need for representation among the individuals we serve. Aware that representation greatly increases the likelihood of success in immigration court, we strive to leverage our own capacity as well as the generosity of DC area law firms to provide direct representation as frequently as we can.


Many of the detained immigrants we help are long-term permanent residents of the United States with strong family and community ties. Others include arriving asylum seekers, survivors of torture, women who have been victims of persecution or gender-based violence, and individuals who are seriously physically or mentally ill. We assist in the pursuit of many different types of defenses from detention and removal, including asylum, waivers, and green card defense.

The Detained Adult Program helps detained immigrants learn to understand the Immigration Court and deportation process so they can make better informed decisions about their cases. We also help people connect with pro bono attorneys if they are unable to pay for an attorney to represent them. Our goal is to help families stay together and out of harm’s way.


CAIR Coalition staff visit all Maryland and Virginia immigration detention centers and provide the following services to detained adults.

  • Group Orientations: We provie detained immigrants useful information about their basic rights in Immigration Court, the deportation process, and different defenses against deportation.
  • Individual Orientations: Staff members and volunteers conduct confidential individual intakes with any unrepresented detained immigrant in their preferred language. We ask people questions to get a sense of their individual story and help them learn about how immigration law may apply to their case.
  • Connections with Pro Bono Attorneys: If detained immigrants cannot afford an attorney and qualify for a defense against deportation, we will try to connect them with a pro bono attorney to represent them in applying for relief from detention and removal.
  • Provide Pro Se (self-representation) Assistance: If a detained immigrant cannot afford an attorney and we cannot connect them with a pro bono attorney, we will teach them how to represent themselves.
  • Send Volunteers to Credible or Reasonable Fear Interviews: We can send volunteers to observe credible and reasonable fear interviews conducted by the local asylum office. These interviews constitute the first step that an arriving asylum seeker takes toward securing protection and safety in the United States.

If you have any questions about the services provided by the Detained Adult Program, please contact Kelly White, Senior Program Director, Detained Adult Program, at

Photo by Steven Rubin