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Immigrants Share Importance of Legal Representation

This summary about why immigrants need an appointed immigration lawyer was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.

For decades, immigrants have had to battle the complexities of immigration law alone while facing well-resourced government prosecutors. 

Despite the fact that having an immigration lawyer can greatly influence the result of a court case, individuals facing deportation are not guaranteed a government-funded attorney to represent them — unlike in criminal court.

A new report released today morning from the Vera Institute of Justice analyzes firsthand accounts of clients who received lawyers through the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, the first public defender program in the U.S. for detained immigrants facing deportation.

Clients say legal representation helped them stand up to an unfair system

“When I was…like, ‘this case is not going the right way,’ [My lawyers] kept me fighting,” says NYIFUP client Omari.“ They kept me knowing that I do have a family waiting for me.”

Also Read: Immigration Lawyers Wait for Biden Administration to Fulfill Promises

Many other clients testified to the support they received from their attorneys beyond the courtroom, including connections to social, employment, and physical and mental health services.

Even with a lawyer, immigrants need more support:

“What [the report] really points to is that while representation is critically important, it can be life changing, it can truly help people overcome a really challenging, daunting immigration system,”  Shayna Kessler, state advocacy manager at the Vera Institute told Documented. “But it’s not the only solution. We really need to be advancing policies that build towards a welcoming immigration system that centers human dignity.”

Also Read: Pro-Bono Lawyers And Free Legal Immigration Services in New York

In the absence of federally funded legal representation for anyone facing deportation, many other jurisdictions have followed New York’s lead and implemented local and state public defender programs. Now, over 100 immigrants’ rights organizations have called for the federal government to act and take action to establish a national publicly funded deportation defense system so that everyone can benefit from having an immigration lawyer.

Read the six-page policy brief here


New York

Advance Parole: How DACA recipients can travel and re-enter the country: DACA does not allow recipients to re-enter the country freely if they have traveled abroad unless they apply for Advance Parole. — Read more exclusively on Documented

New report highlights roadblocks immigrants face in the NYC construction industry: The report also offers a series of policy recommendations for public officials to improve the working conditions of immigrant construction workers. — Read here

Around the U.S. 

At least 19 children, 2 adults, dead following a school shooting in Uvalde, a heavily Latino-populated city in Texas: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed the suspect, an 18-year-old local, is dead. Border Patrol was also on the scene, according to a resident in the area. — AP News

Executive Office for Immigration Review announces five new immigration judges: The judges have been appointed to courts in California, Florida, and Massachusetts, and included several former immigration attorneys. — Read more

New ICE data shows monitored, detained immigrants increased in May: Over 22,000 immigrants were in detention as of May 7 — the highest number since the start of 2022. Those being electronically monitored increased to about 240,000. — TRAC

Poll finds voters would rather have border secured than help Ukraine: Given a choice between providing funding to help Ukraine or securing the southern border of the U.S., voters indicated more support for the latter. — CBS6 News

Amnesty International decries Title 42 as xenophobic policy: As a court ruling extends the Title 42 border expulsion policy, more immigrants and  human rights organizations and advocates are speaking against it. — Read more

As immigrants struggle with food insecurity, organizations step up to assist: Families are facing higher levels of food insecurity than ever before. Organizations like Migrant Kitchen in New York and Replate in California are helping people struggling. — Read more

Washington D.C.

Biden admin. increasingly relying on shelters to manage increase in border crossings:
An informal pipeline of shelters and other way stations are being increasingly used to house and feed migrants as they wait to seek asylum. — New York Times

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