Federal Public Defender System for Immigration Court Would Pay for Itself

Federal Public Defender System for Immigration Court Would Pay for Itself

"On Friday, the New York City Bar Association plans to release a study contending that cost should not be an obstacle to the creation of a public defender system, paid for by the federal government, for indigent immigrants facing deportation.

The 37-page study was conducted by NERA Economic Consulting, an international firm based in New York, at the behest of the Bar Association, working with the law firm WilmerHale. It estimates that a system that provided legal counsel for every poor immigrant facing deportation would cost about $208 million per year.

But the program would pay for itself by saving about the same amount in reduced government expenditures to detain and remove immigrants and in other savings associated with the overburdened enforcement system, the study says.

“It makes the argument for the first time that appointed counsel is cost-effective, as well as being fair and just,” said Mark Noferi, a fellow at the Center for Migration Studies, who advised NERA on the report.

The report dovetails with other recent studies, including one issued by a task force of immigration lawyers, academics and others in New York City that sought to gauge the impact of inadequate legal representation in the region’s immigration courts. That report spawned a pilot program, currently underway, to provide public defenders for a limited number of detainees at the Varick Street Immigration Court in Manhattan. The initiative, called theNew York Immigrant Family Unity Project, is now seeking city financing in order to expand." - NYT, May 30, 2014.