Deportation Without [Adequate] Representation

by Kristen Pavón

A New York Times Christmas Eve op-ed highlights [unsurprising] findings of a Cardozo Law Review study that examined legal assistance during the deportation process.

Sure — a severe lack of representation was found [where isn’t there a shortage of representation?] — however, the study also found that in 14% of cases out of five immigration courts in NY, attorneys were “grossly inadequate.”

The report surveyed judges in five immigration courts and found shoddy lawyering widespread. According to the judges’ responses, in nearly half the New York cases, immigrants who had lawyers received inadequate representation.

Worse, a huge number of immigrants in New York have no representation at all. Although poor defendants in criminal courts are entitled to court-appointed lawyers, people in immigration courts are not. Over all, immigrants appeared in court without a lawyer in nearly 15,000 cases (27 percent of the total) between October 2005 and July 2010. About two-thirds of immigrants in detention were lawyerless. Other jurisdictions provided even less access to counsel: 79 percent of those arrested and transferred to immigration detention in other states lacked attorneys.

The author offers two, somewhat cursory, solutions: 1) dismiss the cases that fall outside of the Obama administration’s focus to free up competent attorneys and 2) having private foundations and bar associations create programs to put young lawyers to work on immigration issues.

I don’t know what the solution to our legal aid representation shortage is, but on the issue of grossly inadequate legal representation — I do believe that law students should be immersed in the actual practice of law before graduating. Too much is at stake. Plus, law students pay way too much in tuition to have to learn on the job.

Read the whole op-ed here. Thoughts?

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URL

Leave a Comment