New York, NY, Tuesday, May 9, 2023 – The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) supports S.999A/A.170, which will establish the right to legal counsel in immigration court proceedings and provides for the administration thereof.
This legislation would: (1) establish a universal right to counsel for indigent New Yorkers who are subject to removal proceedings under federal immigration law, as well as related proceedings; (2) appoint the Director of the New York State Office of New Americans as the administrator to promulgate rules, policies, and procedures, as needed; (3) monitor and improve legal services provided to covered individuals and require an annual report to State officials summarizing its activities; (4) require New York State to appropriate the funds necessary to effectuate the right to counsel; (5) encourage local governments and private sources, which currently provide funding for legal services to continue to provide such funding; and (6) establish an advisory committee to advise and assist the administrator in carrying out its responsibilities.
Due process and access to justice for immigrant New Yorkers is severely lacking because Federal law does not provide a guaranteed right to counsel in immigration proceedings. This legislation would ensure due process and access to justice and would help to rectify the following injustices: immigrants facing potentially severe consequences in immigration proceedings, including deportation and family separation; and immigrant New Yorkers confronting significant challenges in accessing counsel in immigration court proceedings, including geographic distances, political fears, financial considerations, long waiting lists, and language barriers. When immigrants are afforded access to counsel, they fare dramatically better in immigration court proceedings as they are more likely to: be released from custody; not be removed in absentia because they did not know their court date; and successfully defend against deportation charges and relief applications.
This legislation will increase access to representation and ensure that due process is served for vulnerable immigrant New Yorkers while providing appropriate funding for immigration legal services.
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The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY) is the professional membership organization of choice for nearly 4,000 attorneys throughout New York State and the largest statewide women’s bar association in the country. For more than four decades, WBASNY has been a singularly important resource for women lawyers, providing professional networking, continuing legal education programming, leadership training, and advocacy for the rights of women, children, and families. Through involvement with WBASNY’s 20 regional chapters and its 40-plus substantive law committees, WBASNY’s members collaborate with one another on a variety of issues and perform public and community service, in furtherance of its mission to promote the advancement of the status of women in society and women in the legal profession; to promote the fair and equal administration of justice; and to act as a unified voice for its members with respect to issues of statewide, national and international significance to women generally and women attorneys in particular. WBASNY holds United Nations NGO status with the U.N.’s Department of Public Information, and Special Consultative status in association with the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). WBASNY is also a founding member of the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations.