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The New York Immigrant Representation Study (“NYIR Study”) is a two-year project of the Study Group on Immigrant Representation to analyze and ameliorate the immigrant representation crisis—the acute shortage of qualified attorneys willing and able to represent indigent immigrants facing deportation. The crisis has reached epic proportions in New York and shows no signs of abating.

In its year-one report (issued in the fall of 2011), the NYIR Study analyzed the empirical evidence regarding the nature and scope of the immigrant representation crisis. In that report, we documented how many New Yorkers—27 percent of those not detained and 60 percent of those who were detained—face deportation, and the prospect of permanent exile from families, homes and livelihoods, without any legal representation whatsoever. These unrepresented individuals are often held in detention and include many lawful permanent residents (green card holders), asylees and refugees, victims of domestic violence, and other classes of vulnerable immigrants with deep ties to New York. The study confirmed that the impact of having counsel cannot be overstated: people facing deportation in New York immigration courts with a lawyer are 500 percent as likely to win their cases as those without representation. While, at one end, nondetained immigrants with lawyers have successful outcomes 74 percent of the time, those on the other end, without counsel and who were detained, prevailed a mere 3 percent of the time.

In its second year, the NYIR Study convened a panel of experts to use the data from the year-one report to develop ambitious, yet realistic, near- to medium-term ways to mitigate the worst aspects of the immigrant representation crisis here in New York. The year-two analysis and proposals are set forth in detail here, in the NYIR Study Report: Part II.

A comprehensive solution to the nationwide immigrant representation crisis will require federal action. However, such federal action does not appear on the horizon. Meanwhile, the costs of needless deportations are felt most acutely in places like New York, with vibrant and vital immigrant communities. In addition to the injustice of seeing New Yorkers deported simply because they lack access to counsel, the impact of these deportations on the shattered New York families left behind is devastating. Moreover, the local community then bears the cost of these deportations in very tangible ways: when splintered families lose wage-earning members, they become dependent on a variety of City and State safety net programs to survive; the foster care system must step in when deportations cause the breakdown of families; and support networks to families and children must accommodate the myriad difficulties that result when federal policies are enforced without regard for local concerns. Put simply, the City and State of New York bear a heavy cost as a result of the immigrant representation crisis.

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New York Immigrant Representation Study Steering Committee


Immigration Law