Stephen Manning

Founder of Immigrant Law Group, PC | Founder and Director of Innovation Law Lab

Stephen Manning has been an influential figure in immigration policy since the early 2000s, when he founded Immigrant Law Group, PC, a firm specializing in “impact litigation” against the federal government with the aim of forcing policy changes to benefit immigrants. In the firm’s first four years, it filed 30 suits in federal district court and appealed another 30 immigration-board decisions to the U.S. Court of Appeals; it lost only four of these cases.

Manning’s greater influence, however, came in 2014 after he learned that hundreds of women and children fleeing gang violence in Central America were being detained in a secret facility designed for rapid deportation without due process in Artesia, New Mexico. Manning decided to take action.

“Using the traditional pro bono model,” he said in a 2018 interview, “the project would have needed 500 lawyers. We didn’t have that. And we didn’t have time. I realized that if we were going to save even one life, we would have to do something radically different.”

As a response, Manning started Innovation Law Lab, a digital platform that allowed each case to be crowdsourced by an army of volunteer lawyers from around the country. “We went from all these different Excel sheets to a tool that would enable us to track and manage cases,” said Manning.

The program successfully reduced deportations by 97 percent at the facility, which was eventually shut down. Manning has since been given the 2015 American Immigration Lawyers Association Founders Award, which recognized him as the person with the most impact on immigration policy, and the 2017 Financial Times award for Legal Innovator for North America.


Manning’S IDEAS

  • Border Security

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  • Border Wall

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  • Detention

    Manning is opposed to all forms of immigration-related detention in the U.S. Much of his work centers on reducing the amount of incarceration resulting from violation of immigration laws. He told Ideaspace he believes that detention to support the immigration laws is “a weaponized misery with no public policy purpose and should be abolished.”

  • Immigration Courts

    Manning developed a case management system called Massive Collaborative Representation (MCR), which allows for what he calls “a crowdsourced refugee defense strategy.” The goal is to slow down court proceedings to allow for more due process in the system. The program is anchored by a database that allows critical information to be passed among an ever-changing cohort of volunteer lawyers around the country. The technological platform enables volunteers to not only track individual cases but also get a broader status report, which helps aggregate tasks and determine where to prioritize resources. Most importantly, the system permits remote teams of lawyers to contribute meaningfully to the project, accessing the information they need to investigate cases and draft bond motions. Every case entered into the software is broken down into a sequence of actions, which can be created and assigned by users — or set up to trigger automatically. Divvying up the work on cases into discrete steps lets volunteer lawyers and others plug into the system remotely and contribute as skills and time allow. The MCR system has been deployed in various settings around the country to raise constitutional challenges to government conduct, especially those involving physical detention.

  • Undocumented Population

    In order to combat ICE raids and protect immigrant rights, Manning assembled what he calls a “highly scalable model of massive collaborative resistance.”

  • ICE

    Manning advocates for ending ICE raids as they are currently carried out and developing a new legal framework for ensuring that immigrants’ rights to movement and refuge are protected. Manning told Ideaspace he believes that “ICE’s primary mission and its organizational culture which has grown around it is part of the industry of misery of immigration detention.” To Manning, ICE represents “deportationism”, which he views as a policy “that wrongly emphasizes deportations and detention over all else.”

  • DACA

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  • Asylum

    Manning has used Innovation Law Lab to organize large-scale asylum workshops that provide individuals an orientation to asylum law, assistance in completing asylum applications, and tools such as a digital locker detained individuals can use to safeguard documentary evidence and facilitate filings.

  • Central America Policy

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  • Visas

    In April of 2020, Manning’s Innovation Law Lab, in coordination with other advocacy groups, filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order on the Trump administration’s immigration ban. One effect of the ban was to suspend most family reunification visas, which Manning saw as essential to the economic recovery related to COVID-19. He believed the ban would deny entry to thousands of grandparents coming to provide childcare for essential workers. When the Biden administration revoked the ban in February 2021, Manning said, “These families and workers are an essential part of the American story. They are vital to the success and survival of our communities and will help speed our recovery. Thankfully, the parents, grandparents, children and siblings of citizens and permanent residents harmed by the previous administration’s ban can now focus on unifying and healing.”

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