Joint Statement Opposing DHS Plans to Close the Varick Federal Detention Center

From the City Bar Justice Center, The Legal Aid Society and the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s New York Chapter

The City Bar Justice Center (CBJC), The Legal Aid Society (LAS) and the New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA- NY) oppose the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to close the Varick Federal Detention Center by the end of February 2010.

CBJC, LAS and AILA-NY have collaborated for more than a year to operate a free legal clinic (aka The NYC Know Your Rights Project) at the Varick detention facility. The Project’s unique service delivery model, which partners with volunteer attorneys from New York City law firms and students from law school clinics, has provided free legal advice, counseling and limited representation to more than 350 immigrants detained at the facility. Detainees have received free legal assistance regarding bonds, in habeas cases, and in removal hearings. As a result, at least eight immigrants have been released from detention so far. In November 2009, the City Bar Justice Center issued a report finding that 39% of detainees interviewed at the clinic had possible defenses and claims to relief against removal but no lawyer to assert them.

With no recognized right to appointed counsel in immigration proceedings, the Department’s plans to close the Varick Facility and send New York detainees elsewhere will:

  • Deprive New York detainees, a majority of whom cannot navigate the complex immigration proceedings, of their right to receive information and access counsel within the New York metropolitan community, which has established pro bono services;
  • Raise serious due process and right-to-counsel questions of a constitutional nature;
  • Greatly hinder detainees’ efforts to marshal evidence and witnesses in their home community of New York to support their defenses and claims for relief and;
  • Further burden United States citizen and lawful permanent resident family members’ ability to visit and provide emotional support.
  • We ask that the Varick facility be kept open as a temporary processing center with continuing access for volunteer attorneys and law students through the NYC Know Your Rights Project and other initiatives.
  • Contacts
  • The Legal Aid Society
  • City Bar Justice Center