Unlike in criminal proceedings, where defendants are given a lawyer if they cannot afford one, immigrants do not have the right to a government paid attorney in immigration court. Those unable to afford a private attorney must find a nonprofit to help or represent themselves, which makes a huge difference. Having a lawyer represent someone in deportation proceedings makes an enormous difference. 78% of immigrants with lawyers win their cases, versus 15% who don't have legal help. For immigrants who are detained, only 3% win their cases without a lawyer.
New York State has a chance to remedy this situation by passing a piece of legislation that would empower immigrants to protect themselves and their families. The Access to Representation Act would mandate that the state appoint a lawyer to anyone in New York who has a case before an immigration judge or who has a basis to appeal or request to reopen an old deportation order, and meets income requirements. It would also provide stable funding streams for immigration legal services, easing uncertainty on both the legal representatives and their clients.
For more information about The Access to Representation Act, please visit the campaign page by The New York Immigration Coalition.