Currently, there is no right to legal counsel for immigrants, including people seeking asylum and families with children and those who cannot afford an attorney find themselves navigating the court system alone.
In response, The Legal Aid Society and our legal services partners formed the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), an innovative project providing free legal counsel for every detained immigrant who appears at the Varick Street Immigration Court in Manhattan. The project is the first of its kind in the nation, and it is both highly effective and efficient – a recent report projected the program could increase the win-rate for detained immigrants by 1,000%, while the cost of providing legal counsel to immigrants is less than the cost of detention or deportation.
Since the program’s inception in 2013, nearly 1,900 people have been represented by specialized immigration attorneys, and deportation orders are at their lowest since 2013: only 535 were ordered removed so far this year, a 55% decrease since 2012. Prior to NYIFUP, 60% of those in removal proceedings while in immigration custody in New York appeared without counsel, and only three percent won a reprieve from deportation. For those who do pay for representation, nearly half of the lawyers representing immigrants performed either inadequately or “grossly” inadequately. As data continues to support the effectiveness and life-changing results of free, high-quality immigration defense, our work is being replicated across the country.
The Society is proud of NYIFUP’s proven success, and will continue to fight for the right to counsel for immigrants facing deportation.