Virginia Justice Program

CAIR Coalition’s Virginia Justice Program (VJP), strives to ensure that non-citizens receive equal justice in Virginia criminal courts.

We provide support to members of Virginia’s criminal defense bar in their representation of non-citizen defendants, including:

The program also conducts litigation and advocacy at the intersection of criminal-immigration law through the Crim-Imm Pro Bono Project. Click here to learn more about the Project.

Non-citizens in the criminal justice system face significantly enhanced penalties compared to citizens charged with the same offenses. Even the most minor convictions can have harsh immigration consequences, including prolonged detention, family separation for longtime residents, and removal to unfamiliar or dangerous countries. These consequences can sometimes be avoided or reduced by timely, accurate advice about the immigration consequences of Virginia criminal dispositions.

In 2010, the Supreme Court found in Padilla v. Kentucky that criminal defense attorneys are required to provide such advice to their non-citizen clients. The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed that holding in 2015, articulating in Zemene v. Clarke a broad view of defense attorneys’ obligation to investigate a client’s immigration history, advise the client about immigration consequences, and defend against negative immigration consequences.

By helping to ensure that court-appointed and private attorneys are educated about the immigration consequences of crime, the Virginia Justice Program greatly increases the likelihood that indigent and non-indigent immigrants in Virginia will have access to equal justice—defense counsel competent to advise them and defend against disproportionate immigration consequences of any criminal disposition. By providing resources to Virginia’s criminal defense bar, the program helps enable attorneys to meet their constitutional obligations under federal and state law.

The Virginia Justice Program maintains strong relationships with the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, public defender offices, the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and other private bar associations and organizations. We are grateful to the Virginia Law Foundation for financial support.

Are you a criminal defense attorney in need of support? Visit our Resources Page and/or consider requesting an individualized Case Consultation.

Is your office or bar association interested in a free training on the immigration consequences of Virginia criminal offenses? Contact Adina Appelbaum at

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