Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

New York state has dire shortage of lawyers qualified to practice immigration law

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 2, 2012

New York state has both a “dire” shortage of lawyers who are qualified to practice immigration law as well as inadequate safeguards against incompetent lawyers. An article at WNYC Radio in New York City explains:

There is a “crisis” in the quality and availability of immigration lawyers in the state, the New York State Bar Association says in a new report.

The study flags a “dire” shortage of lawyers who are qualified to practice immigration law and inadequate safeguards against incompetent lawyers…

…“Since there’s a shortage of lawyers willing to provide pro-bono representation for these low income clients, there have been instances where non-profits will have a case worker without a law degree help represent these clients.”

And that well intentioned, but usually unqualified, assistance, she said, frequently leads to serious mistakes. Rizzo mentioned one instance in which a caseworker without a law degree helped a Burmese immigrant she later represented. The caseworker filled out an immigration form incorrectly, and as a result, Rizzo explained, the federal government suspected fraud and denied visas to the immigrant’s wife and child.

His wife and child eventually were permitted to come into the country, but only after she spent considerable time rectifying the caseworker’s mistakes…

…According to the lawyers who drafted the report, immigrants in the state often do not understand how to acquire legal representation and do not have the ability to represent themselves. Language problems only further exacerbate these representation problems.

The lawyers note that the shortage is felt most heavily in the areas of the state where immigration assistance is needed the most.

“Particularly in the central part of New York state, especially where there are large majorities of migrant farm workers and other immigrants, such as refugees who are resettling in various parts of upstate New York, we don’t have an availability of attorneys that specialize in immigration law to represent these individuals,” said Macri… Read more here

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