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Blue-Ribbon Legal Panel's Report Recommending Appointed Counsel for New York Immigrants Garners Strong Community Support

Proposing the First System of Institutionally-Provided Counsel, Report Offers Solution to the Immigrant Representation Crisis Currently Threatening New York Families

NEW YORK, Nov. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Each year, thousands of New Yorkers, including many legal immigrants, are locked up by federal immigration authorities, held in jails and forced to defend themselves against deportation without any access to a lawyer.  Not surprisingly, it is virtually impossible for these New Yorkers to effectively contest the deportation charges against them.  The resulting deportations tear apart thousands of New York families each year and deprive New York of breadwinners, caretakers, parents, and spouses.  According to a report released today, Accessing Justice II: A Model for Providing Counsel to New York Immigrants in Removal Proceedings, there is a solution. This report, which grows out of the Study Group on Immigrant Representation, launched by Judge Robert A. Katzmann, is the blueprint for creating the nation's first institutionally-provided, universal representation system of counsel for immigrants in deportation proceedings.

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The federal immigration system is, by all accounts, broken and enforcement has run roughshod over immigrant communities.  The resulting devastation is felt most acutely in places like New York, with thriving, vibrant and integrated populations of immigrants. "When a family loses its breadwinner to deportation because it could not afford a lawyer, the fallout includes strains on our foster care system, burdens on our public benefits programs, and results in deep psychological harm to the thousands of New York children left behind when parents are deported," explained Stacy Caplow, Director of the Clinical Legal Education Program at Brooklyn Law School, and a co-chair of the NYIRS.  The new report explains that New York is uniquely positioned to lead by example.  The report urges New York to provide the most basic measure of due process—legal counsel—to ensure that no New York family is torn apart simply for lack of the funds to hire a lawyer.

Accessing Justice II represents the conclusion of a rigorous two-year study—the New York Immigrant Representation Study ("NYIRS")—that draws upon data and the expertise of a blue-ribbon steering committee in an effort to design a system to address the worst aspects of the immigrant representation crisis here in New York.

Data from the NYIRS demonstrate the contours and scale of the problem.  Unlike criminal proceedings, immigrants in deportation proceedings can be held in jail and forced to proceed against trained government lawyers alone, without any legal assistance whatsoever—indeed 60% of New York immigrants who are detained do not have lawyers.  Many of these immigrants have valid defenses to deportation.  However, NYIRS data demonstrate that being detained and unrepresented creates insurmountable barriers to a fair legal process and, as a result, only 3% of people in this situation succeed in preventing their deportation.  But lawyers make a significant difference.  NYIRS data show that people with lawyers are as much as 500% more likely to succeed in preventing their deportation than those without.   It is not only the unrepresented immigrants who suffer as the result of this crisis.  Over a five-year period, over 7,000 New York City children lost a parent to deportation.  With a program for appointed counsel, that number would be dramatically lower.

Peter Markowitz, Director of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigrant Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and a co-chair of the NYIRS, adds, "holding people in jails, many who cannot speak English, some who don't have high school diplomas, and forcing them to litigate against trained government lawyers in one of the most complex arenas of American law cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called a system of justice."

Accompanying the release of Accessing Justice II is the public launch of a campaign to bring to life the recommendations in the report.  This initiative will seek to implement the system recommended in the report by creating the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project.  The project would provide for assigned counsel to detained New York immigrants facing deportation who cannot afford to hire lawyers.  The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project has garnered widespread community support.  Twenty-four leading community organizations have signed on in support of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project.  View the statement of support here: http://www.cardozo.yu.edu/MemberContentDisplay.aspx?ccmd=ContentEdit&ucmd=UserDisplay&userid=10342&contentid=25690&folderid=308.  

"New York can and should lead the way in providing for a fair process for immigrants and protecting its families from being senselessly torn apart," said Claudia Slovinsky of Claudia Slovinsky and Associates, PLLC, and a co-chair of the NYIRS.  

The full report can be viewed here:

http://www.cardozolawreview.com/content/denovo/NYIRS_ReportII.pdf.

The New York Immigrant Representation Study, a project of the Study Group on Immigrant Representation, is a recently completed two‐year study of the immigrant representation crisis in New York. In its first year, the NYIRS documented the nature and scope of the problems resulting from the lack of access to counsel and inadequate quality of counsel. In its second year, the NYIRS explored solutions by convening a blue-ribbon panel of experts from all relevant sectors of the legal community to evaluate the empirical evidence from year one and to develop a realistic proposal to resolve the crisis in New York.

SOURCE Peter Markowitz of the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Cardozo School of Law

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