It’s common for immigrants in New Jersey who are targeted for deportation to have no legal representation. In such an event, immigrants that have strong cases for asylum or residency could end up being sent back to their home countries without a fair trial.
No Sixth Amendment rights
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of anyone accused of a crime to have a fair trial with the assistance of legal counsel. However, this right that is guaranteed to U.S. citizens does not apply to immigrants who are being accused of staying in the country illegally.
New York Immigrant Family Unity Project
There are local organizations that are taking up the cause of underrepresented immigrants, and one of the best examples is the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project. The project started with a public grant in 2013 and now provides legal representation for every detained immigrant in New York State. Inspired by the success in New York, other immigration advocates across the country have started similar projects.
Immigration cases are notorious for taking years to reach their conclusion, and this is mostly caused by backlogs in the courts. There are currently 1.3 million immigration cases pending in the U.S., and the average time pending is 2.5 years.
Legal aid programs like the one in New York may help to unclog the system since lawyers can counsel their clients on what their options are. Many immigrants agree to be deported after receiving counsel and learning that they don’t qualify for deportation relief. In many other cases, immigrants learn that they do qualify for asylum or residency, and lawyers help to get them released from crowded detention centers.