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Thursday, December 5, 2013

NPR News: New Pilot Program Gives Immigrant Detainees Public Defenders -

“The court helped find my son not only a lawyer but an angel” – Brunilda Fontanillas
Rico’s mother, Brunilda Fontanillas, says she and her son couldn’t afford a private attorney. He was detained in October after an earlier landlord-tenant dispute that escalated into an arrest. Rico’s attorney says that as a lawful permanent resident who has lived in the U.S. for decades, Rico may be eligible to avoid deportation back to the Dominican Republic. In the first month of the pilot program, public defenders represented 41 detainees. So far 17 have accepted orders for deportation.
In the American criminal justice system, you have the right to an attorney. And if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
That’s not the case if you’re a defendant in U.S. immigration court. Immigration proceedings are civil matters, and the Constitution does not extend the right to court-appointed attorneys to immigrant detainees.
But a new pilot program in New York City is trying to change that with the nation’s first government-funded public defender service for immigrants facing deportation. Launched earlier this month, the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project provides poor immigrant detainees with court-appointed attorneys from the Bronx Defenders and Brooklyn Defender Services.
About 44 percent of detainees entered immigration court hearings last year without a lawyer. Organizers say public defenders could not only help some immigrants avoid unnecessary deportations, but also speed up immigration proceedings and cut down on detention time.
Quick Matches
Attorneys at the Bronx Defenders leave nothing to chance as they prepare for immigration court. After double-checking files and running through courtroom scenarios, there’s still one thing attorney Conor Gleason won’t know for sure until just hours before he’s in front of a judge: the person he’ll have to represent next as a public defender in immigration court.  - See more at: 

Policy on detaining illegal immigrants under review

SAN JOSE -- Two years after Santa Clara County thumbed its nose at federal immigration authorities and began releasing jailed illegal immigrants -- even those with a history of serious or violent crime -- rather than holding them for possible deportation, the county is poised to relent.
Only a handful of other jurisdictions in the country, including Chicago's Cook County, now refuse to hold any inmates unless U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement pays for the cost of detaining them -- which ICE refuses to do.
Local law enforcement officials have been warning since the policy was adopted in fall 2011 that freeing undocumented immigrants who belong to gangs or have been arrested or convicted of violent crimes poses a significant risk in that they may go on to victimize others.

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