Archives for March 2015

NYC Moves Closer To ‘Civil Gideon’ For Evictions

A regulatory watchdog is reporting that New York City may provide free legal counsel to low-income tenants facing eviction, advancing the idea of a “civil Gideon” right to council not only for criminal cases but for some life-changing civil issues like housing and family law cases. Writing an analysis for the Penn Law blog, Brandi Lupo says that the main question is “can the city afford it?”

Lupo reports that “… over 90 percent of tenants in New York City Housing Court do not have legal representation, while nearly 98 percent of landlords do. Tenants without legal representation reportedly receive warrants of eviction over four times more often than tenants with legal representation. If passed, the recent New York City proposal will create a new office, the “Civil Justice Coordinator,” that will provide the infrastructure necessary to provide legal services for eligible individuals in covered proceedings. Ultimately, this should lead to guaranteed access to legal counsel for low-income tenants in New York City facing eviction, ejectment, or foreclosure.”

Another source predicts that 2015 will be a “tipping point” for civil Gideon in the United States. Read the report here.

New Stats On Need For Border Kid Lawyers

The numbers just keep getting worse when it comes to legal representation for those unaccompanied children coming to the U.S. border seeking refuge. According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, some 32 percent of unaccompanied immigrant children have been represented by counsel. But that national percentage reflects widely ranging jurisdictions, and NBC News is reporting that “… in New York, the figure is higher, with 43 percent of unaccompanied children accessing legal representation.”
The NBC story reports that “… having legal representation makes a difference in whether a child is allowed to remain in the U.S. Syracuse University found that almost three-quarters of represented children were allowed by the court to remain in the U.S., whereas only fifteen percent of unrepresented children had a similar outcome.
Syracuse University found that almost three-quarters of represented children were allowed by the court to remain in the U.S., whereas only fifteen percent of unrepresented children had a similar outcome.”
The report also said that, in 2014, “… about 68,000 unaccompanied children were detained at the border. While these numbers have since dropped, they are still significant; U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that 7,771 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala have been apprehended in FY 2015 to date.”
Immigration courts are not federal courts in the usual sense, but actually work for the Department of Justice. While the children are allowed to have legal representation, the government considers the action “civil,” so has no obligation to provide an attorney as it might in a criminal case. See the new NBC report here:

Driving Issue: 131K Licenses Issued To Undocumented In California

Citing state officials, Reuters is reporting that California issued “about 131,000 driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in January and February, the first two months since the state began granting the permits to people who are in the country illegally.”

The news services added that “the most populous U.S. state joined nine others and the District of Columbia in granting licenses to drivers regardless of immigration status, a controversial move that marked a significant shift in policy toward immigrants in California.” The lack of a driver’s license has long been a problem in the Golden State, prompting some cities to issue their own forms of ID.

Between 2 million and 3 million unauthorized immigrants are believed to live in California, making them the nation’s largest such population. Immigration courts, meanwhile, face a backup of some 400,000 cases. Such cases are civil, not criminal, proceedings. To read more about the driving issue, click here.

Lawyer, Location Not Law, Determine Fate Of Asylum-Seeking Children

Access to a lawyer and location of their case is very much more likely to determine the fate of “Border Kids” than laws or other factors, according to a POLITICO analysis that found a “very uneven brand of justice” in U.S. immigration courts. The analysis of government data “… shows that fully 88 percent of the removal orders issued since July have gone to children without an attorney. What’s more, a juvenile assigned to judges in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia in the past 16 months was at least three times more likely to receive such an order than a child in California, Florida or New York.”

The resulting POLITICO story implies that the Obama Administration’s “hall pass” on the crisis, which exploded into headlines last summer but diminished in the wake of reform promises, is nearly expired. The D.C.-based publication wrote that “… the same humanitarian crisis that gripped the White House and Congress last year is now a less visible one of American justice. And it still poses a major test for the Obama administration, which promised compassion and fairness in the treatment of the child migrants but also contributed to the current problem by expediting deportation proceedings

The report is likely a game-changer because it documents the range of outcomes under a “single federal system,” which illustrates it’s anything but a single system. The research compares and contrasts outcome, documenting that “… the number of removal and voluntary departure orders in Texas and North Carolina was 3.5 times the level in California and Florida.

Read more:

‘Border Kids’ Moves Into New ‘Crisis Of Process’

Photo from the LA Times report, "7,000 immigrant children ordered deported without going to court," 3/6/15

Photo from the LA Times report, “7,000 immigrant children ordered deported without going to court,” 3/6/15

Just when you think the “Border Kids” crisis where thousands of minor asylum seekers flood the borders, the situation takes a turn for the worse. Now, the Los Angeles Times reports, “… more than 7,000 immigrant children have been ordered deported without appearing in court since large numbers of minors from Central America began illegally crossing the U.S. border in 2013, federal statistics show.”

Not that anyone knows much beyond those orders. The Times notes that immigrant advocates say many of those children were never notified of their hearing date because of problems with the immigration court system. Times sources say that some notices arrived late, some went to the wrong address or perhaps there was no notice delivered at all. Those sources also say some children were ordered to appear in a court where they were initially detained, not where they are living now.

Also, nobody really knows how many of those children choose to just not show up for the hearing, or how many were actually notices. “What was a border crisis has now become a due process crisis,” said Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense, an advocacy group, in the Times report. Oh, and it is also not known how many of those children facing deportation orders have been sent home – you have to wonder if they even know the hearings happened.

Read more on the mess at the Times: