Target: Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker of the New York City Council
Goal: Applaud the New York City Council for funding a program to assign public defenders to immigrants facing deportation
Immigrants in deportation cases have no constitutional right to public defenders. New York City lawmakers recently launched a $4.9 million program to fund public defenders for low-income immigrants. The first of its kind, the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project organizes attorneys from the public sector to represent all qualifying families in immigration court. The need for such programs cannot be overstated in light of the fact that nearly 2 million people have been deported from the United States since 2009.
The program began last year with a pilot of 190 cases. It can be hard for anyone to understand legal parameters and terms, but the system becomes nearly impossible to navigate for those who don’t yet have a solid grasp on English. Those who can afford attorneys are far more likely to fight deportation and remain in the country legally. According to a study conducted by NERA Economic Consulting, 71 percent of defendants in immigration proceedings lack legal representation and are left to face the courts on their own.
This program also promises immense financial benefits. NERA’s study also shows that providing a public defender network for immigrants can pay for itself. The cost of funding the program nationally would be significantly less than the current cost of enforcement, prolonged detention and removal from the country. Starting with 1,300 cases in New York City, this program could help inspire changes on a national level.
The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project has already demonstrated positive results. By providing initial funding, helping qualifying families navigate immigration court more quickly and humanely, the New York City Council has also saved itself and taxpayers a lot of money. Applaud lawmakers for helping make the program a success, and encourage their ongoing financial support.
Dear Ms. Mark-Viverito,
I was thrilled to learn about the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project. The first of its kind, the program funds public defenders to help immigrant families represent themselves more accurately at deportation hearings. Given that 71 percent of immigrants in deportation cases currently lack legal representation, the pilot program fills a genuine need.
Often lacking a clear understanding of English, defendants in immigration court are typically detained for long periods before finally being released, or else deported. Those who can afford attorneys are far more likely to remain legally in the United States. By funding this program you have not only helped many immigrant families stay together; in the process you have saved taxpayers a lot of money.
This is the very definition of a win-win situation, and I thank you for helping make it a reality. Please, urge your colleagues to continue to fund the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: William Warby via Wikimedia Commons