Public Defenders for Immigrants – LA Times original article

A new year-long New York pilot program is providing free legal counsel to low income people facing deportation. Right now, the New York City Council has given the program a $500,000 budget to provide these services to 20% of the immigrants currently in their city’s detention centers. If this program is successful, it could open the doors for immigrants’ rights advocates, like GAIN, all across the country to have support from their cities.

Legal representation is highly important in immigration proceedings. Most immigrants have to represent themselves, because there is generally no free right to legal representation in immigration proceedings. With legal counsel, proceedings run more efficiently. When cases move through the court more quickly, detention centers reduce their spending, and more than pay for public defender programs for detainees. Also, with legal counsel immigrants can know whether their deportation in unavoidable, the basics of the case and proceedings are explained in advance to the clients, and defenses are discovered that clients might not figure out on their own.

There is unlikely success without legal representation. Because most clients represent themselves, there is a low likelihood of success as they go up against government attorneys, trained in legal analysis and litigation. In New York prior to this pilot program, 3% of detainees who represented themselves succeed, while 18% of detainees with legal representation succeed.

There are harsh consequences for those matters without legal right to representation provided by the state. Even for immigrants with green cards, with a certain type of conviction, their green cards can be taken away from them and they can be issued immediate deportation orders. If they are allowed to apply for a visa, they often do not know what the process is.

Read the LA Times article linked above for the full story.