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Immigration Lawyers 'Inadequate,' NY Judges Say

Nearly half of New York-area immigration lawyers are "inadequate" or "grossly inadequate," with private immigration attorneys faring the worst, a survey of immigration judges finds.

Still, immigrants facing deportation fare far better with lawyers than without, the survey finds.

The survey found immigration lawyers were often poorly prepared, and sometimes failed to show up for hearings at five immigration courts in and around New York City, The New York Times reports.

The survey aimed to assess the quality of legal representation for immigrants facing deportation, The Times reports. The full study appears in this week's Cardozo Law Review by the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.

Among the survey's major findings:

  • Judges found immigrants' legal representation was "inadequate" in 33% of cases, and "grossly inadequate" in 14% of cases between mid-2010 and mid-2011.
  • Judges gave their lowest grades to immigration lawyers in private practice. Immigration attorneys working with pro bono groups and law-school clinics got higher marks.
  • 27% of immigrants faced deportation hearings without counsel between 2005 and 2010.
  • 67% of immigrants with counsel had successful outcomes at their deportation hearings, compared to just 8% of immigrants without counsel.

While immigrants in criminal courts are generally entitled to court-appointed lawyers, that's not required at a deportation hearing, The Times reports.

Still, with or without an attorney, immigrants are entitled to give testimony and present witnesses at a deportation hearing. If an alien is ordered deported, he or she has 30 days to appeal. Because each immigration case presents different legal challenges, it's best to consult an experienced immigration lawyer to protect your rights.

The group that spearheaded the Cardozo immigration lawyer survey is planning to fix the problems they identified. Researchers are working on ways to guarantee legal counsel for all immigrants facing deportation.

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