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Immigrants in Court Lack Lawyers

May 5, 2011
Plain English Version

A study in New York City showed that immigrants have a much better chance to win their deportation cases if they have legal assistance. In addition, only 40 percent of detained immigrants have lawyers.

A federal judge in New York City is working to find lawyers for immigrants who are facing detention or deportation and do not have legal representation.

Defendants have no right to a court-appointed lawyer in immigration court.

Retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens wrote a decision last year that said lawyers must tell their clients about the deportation consequences of pleading guilty. He urged Congress to grant state and federal judges discretion in deportation cases because, he said, “the consequences are just so drastic.”

The problem is worse in places like Texas or Louisiana. A federal study said nearly 80 percent of immigrants in court are not represented.

An expert said another problem for immigrants is people posing as lawyers. Many immigrants cannot speak English. Phony legal service providers are defrauding immigrant communities.

The Justice Department opened a project in New York City last year that advises immigrants on their rights. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city would spend $2 million to train immigration lawyers. The funds are not available yet.

The number of lawyers working free on immigration cases is growing. However, experts say there is no way to solve the problem quickly.

An immigration lawyer said these problems have been around for a long time.” We need a large-scale solution to get representation for all immigrants.”

The New York Times


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