Thursday, April 26, 2012

For many people not in the business of immigration law practice, the New York Immigrant Representation report, which was published in the Cardozo Law Review, is an eye-opener into the world of deportation proceedings. Some of the issues the report addresses are the impact of the transfer of detained immigrants to far off jurisdictions on the immigrants' ability to hire immigration counsel, inadequate legal representation, high bond amounts, and a high number of self-represented non-citizens.

The number of foreign nationals representing themselves in immigration courts is appalling. (Unlike in criminal proceedings, non-citizens are not entitled to an appointed attorney in deportation proceedings.) According to the report, in New York City, 60 percent of detained immigrants and 27 percent of non-detained immigrants do not have the benefit of an immigration attorney's expertise during the removal process.

The study only looks at removal, or deportation, cases that come before immigration judges. It does not address the number of individuals who seek immigration benefits from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or Consular Offices abroad where an unsuccessful outcome can damage the person's life as seriously as a removal from the country. Is inability to unite with one's spouse in the United States less hurtful than separation with one's spouse as a result of a deportation order? Nevertheless, more and more applicants handle immigration petitions on their own. The above study finds that, between 2000 and 2010, the number of unrepresented individuals has doubled.

Some foreign nationals dive into the maze of immigration law and procedure by themselves because they cannot afford hiring immigration lawyers; others chose to represent themselves because they believe they can handle it. The deceitfully simple immigration forms lure many pro se applicants into trouble. Some mistakes, including those involving strategy and presentation of evidence, may not be corrected.

We all know about the benefits of hiring professionals to deal with our problems, be it an electrician to repair a shorted wire, a medical doctor to treat a health issue, or an attorney to resolve a legal trouble. The New York study confirms the value of professional services: immigrants who were placed in deportation and who hired an immigration lawyer had successful outcome in 67 percent of cases; those who represented themselves were successful in only eight percent of cases. This data shows the importance of informing non-citizen applicants about the benefits of employing licensed professionals to assist them with immigration petitions.


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