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Justice Center’s Lynn Kelly Testifies Before New York City Council on Immigrant Detention

by CBJC Staff December 14, 2011

City Bar Justice Center Executive Director Lynn M. Kelly testified on December 13th before the New York City Council’s Committee on Immigration on the topic of “Oversight–Treatment of NYC’s Immigrants in Detention Centers.”

Kelly’s testimony was based largely on the Justice Center’s experience counseling detainees at the Varick Street detention facility beginning about three years ago, at a pro bono clinic set up by the Justice Center along with The Legal Aid Society and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Since the closing of Varick in 2010, the project has adapted and, working with volunteer lawyers, the Justice Center has interviewed more than 400 detained New Yorkers and obtained the release and restoration to their families of more than a dozen.

“The Justice Center starts from the proposition that the biggest problem with immigration detention is the lack of counsel,” said Kelly in her submitted testimony. “To be clear, there is no right to government assigned counsel for anyone facing removal, including those with green cards (lawful permanent residents). According to a recent study by the Vera Institute of Justice, an immigrant with a lawyer who has been released from detention or never been detained has a 74% success rate in a removal hearing, compared to a dismal 3% success rate for immigrants who were detained and lacked counsel. Immigrants who obtain release are more likely to obtain their own attorneys so the goal should be to decrease the numbers of non-violent offenders who are detained and increase counsel for those who are detained, to ensure that all of their legal defenses are raised. In this regard, the recent city funding for additional immigration attorneys at the defenders and domestic violence programs is a very good idea.”

Kelly’s complete testimony can be read here.

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