Peter Markowitz, Judge Robert Katzmann, and Angela Fernandez

On November 20th, Talking Transition hosted “Accessing Justice for New York Immigrants,” a panel discussion on assisting immigrants facing deportation. Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and Angela Fernandez, Executive Director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, spoke about two new initiatives developed in response to the findings of Katzmann’s Study Group on Immigration Representation. Before turning to the
individual programs, the panel’s moderator, Professor Peter L. Markowitz, of the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo School of Law, opened the discussion with a few striking figures:

  • 1.4 million immigrants live in New York City, representing 20% of the City’s population
  • Over 500,000 NYC non-citizens and their children live in poverty
  • 3,500 people annually face deportation without counsel and 50% of lawyers in NYC Immigration Courts have been found to be inadequate
  • A detained immigrant with legal representation is 11 times more likely to win his or her case

Immigrant Justice Corps

Judge Katzmann introduced the Immigrant Justice Corps, a new fellowship program seeking to “prevent deportation and put immigrants on a pathway to citizenship.” The Corps will launch in 2014, with an annual deployment of 25 recent law school graduates and 15 college graduates and will also include senior lawyers stationed across the nation. The three-year law fellows will be coupled with senior attorneys to provide an array of direct legal services to indigent immigrants while the two-year college graduate program will train fellows to serve as community advocates and paralegals in legal services and community-based organizations. Judge Katzmann hopes for the Corps to have an ultimate capacity of 15,000 cases.

New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP)

Upon allotting $500,000 to the one-year NYIFUP pilot program, New York City “became the first jurisdiction in the nation with a public defender system for immigrants.” The Bronx Defenders and Brooklyn Defenders will provide approximately 190 detained New Yorkers with legal representation, increasing their odds of prevailing by up to 1000%. According to The Center for Popular Democracy, over 7,000 New York City citizens lost a parent to deportation between 2005-2010 (1,167 per year), and placing these children in foster care costs $12.6 million a year. Comparatively, expanding NYIFUP to provide competent legal representation to all poor and detained New Yorkers costs $5.3 million annually – less than 1% of 1% of the City’s approximate $70 billion annual budget.