Many people incorrectly assume that public defenders are available to individuals facing deportation. Despite the high stakes, immigration matters are civil and not criminal under the law, and as such, there is no federal constitutional right to an attorney.
New York State has taken a tip from its namesake city, and has provided funding for all individuals facing deportation in the federal immigration court system in the state.
New York's Deportation Defense Program
New York has long been considered the traditional and primary entry point to the United States for immigrants across the world. In fact, over a third of the population of NYC are actually foreign born. As such, immigrant rights and protections are an important issue, not just for the city, but also the state. The deportation defense program that will be rolled out statewide, has been providing deportation defendants with free legal representation in New York City, if they qualify, since 2013, with much success.
Like qualifying for a public defender, for a person to qualify under New York's new deportation defense program, they must be below the federal poverty line. The programs will be administered by non-profit organizations, and the funding comes from both public and private sources. However, the funding tallies in the millions, and is expected to be able to meet the needs of those facing deportation within the state. While no other state has a similar program, other cities, including Chicago, San Francisco and D.C., are working on creating similar programs.
The Impact of Deportation Representation
The statistics for deportation cases show that unrepresented individuals fare much worse than represented individuals. Nationally, only 1.5% of individuals facing deportation proceedings without an attorney were successful in defending themselves and remaining in the country. That percentage jumps to over 25% if a person is able to secure a lawyer.
In New York City, the statistics are even better than the national average. There, 30% of individuals facing deportation were able to successfully defend themselves with the assistance of an attorney.
Given these statistics, if you or a loved one are facing a deportation action, seeking legal representation as soon as possible may make all the difference.
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