A federal judge and law groups in New York studied the problem. They found 18 percent of cases with lawyers had good outcomes. Only 3 percent of cases without lawyers were successful.
The report also said lawyers were not always the answer. The representation in nearly half the cases with lawyers was said to be “inadequate or grossly inadequate.”
The group’s report recommends that New York state finance legal services for low-income immigrants who face deportation.
New York would be the first place in the country to support the rights of immigrants and the goal of keeping families together. The program is called the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project.
Part of the reason for the project is the high cost to state and local governments when families are broken-up if the breadwinner is deported. Often, the families left behind need public aid.
The program will serve detainees in centers in Manhattan, and Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey. It will also help people facing deportation who are in New York State prisons. They expect to help 1,800 clients a year.
All clients will be able to get mental health counseling and social services as well.
The cost of the project is estimated to be $6 million a year. How important is the program? One attorney said it is often difficult for people to understand the charges against them much less be able to answer them. It is fantasy to believe that, when defendants have no legal assistance, there will be just and fair results.
Talks about starting the program are just beginning.