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Deportation Without Representation

New Center for Social Justice Report

American Immigration Council: 1 in 5 of New Jersey residents are immigrants and 29% of all state business owners are foreign-born


A new report issued by the Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice affirms the extent to which case outcomes for immigrants seeking permission to remain on U.S. soil are tied to the availability of legal representation, and highlights the paucity of legal resources available to meet immigrants’ needs in New Jersey.

“Deportation without Representation: the Access-to-Justice Crisis Facing New Jersey’s Immigrant Families” was published on behalf of the Working Group on Immigrant Representation in New Jersey, assembled and chaired by Judge Michael Chagares of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, to increase access to quality free and low-cost immigration legal services in the state of New Jersey. Entities represented in the Working Group currently include the United States Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review, American Friends Service Committee, Casa Esperanza, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Jersey, Kids in Need of Defense, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, Human Rights First, Legal Services of New Jersey, Lowenstein Sandler, Make the Road New Jersey, Rutgers University School of Law, and the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. 

Seton Hall Law students Branca Banic ’16, Justin Condit ’15, Holly Coppens ’16, Amy Cuzzolino ’16, Jaime DeBartolo ’15, Anthony D’Elia ’16, Danielle King ’16, Victoria Leblein ’16, and Vani Parti ’15 prepared the report under the supervision of Professor Lori Nessel, Director of the Center of Social Justice and Professor Farrin Anello, Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor, Immigrants' Rights/International Human Rights Clinic.

The report was produced in response to New Jersey’s unique immigration circumstances:

  1. The American Immigration Council reports that 21% of New Jersey’s residents are immigrants, whereas immigrants comprise only 12.9% of the entire U.S. population.
  2. Approximately half of New Jersey’s immigrant population is comprised of naturalized U.S. citizens, and this group accounts for 18.8% of the state’s voters.
  3. In 2011, 29% of New Jersey’s business owners were foreign-born. In 2006, New Jersey’s immigrants contributed approximately $47 billion to the gross state product.

“One in five New Jersey residents are immigrants, contributing billions of dollars to the state gross product,” said Professor Lori Nessel, Director of the Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice. “We have a humanitarian imperative to provide safety for our immigrant populations, but we also face economic implications when immigrant adults are removed from their homes. For instance, often the detained adult is the family breadwinner, leaving behind children who then enter the child welfare system, further straining our resources. It serves New Jersey to shore up our capacity to provide legal representation to immigrants and legitimize the standing of this significant segment of our state’s population.”  

Although some immigrants in removal proceedings have no way to avoid deportation, others are entitled to protection such as asylum or relief under the Convention Against Torture, and others may be eligible to apply for green cards and ultimately citizenship.

As would be expected, legal representation is closely tied to success in seeking these protections or other opportunities to remain in the United States. During the time period covered in the study:

  1. Approximately 66% of those detained throughout their immigration court proceedings never secured legal representation, in contrast with about 20% of those who were not detained at any point during proceedings.
  2. Immigrants with representation, detained or otherwise, were at least 3 times as likely to obtain a successful outcome as those who were not represented.For example, among those who were detained throughout and unrepresented, only 14% avoided removal, whereas detained individuals who secured representation prevailed in 49% of the cases.

“Deportation without Representation” also assesses the level of resources available to New Jersey’s immigrant population, surveying approximately one dozen nonprofit organizations that provided low- or no-cost representation to individuals in removal proceedings before the New Jersey immigration courts in 2013 and 2014.

“In general, what we found most telling was how understaffed and under-resourced the immigration legal service providers are in New Jersey,” Professor Nessel noted. “The survey responses indicate that most of the nonprofit organizations staff between two and four attorneys, and levels of funding varied among public and private grants and donations. The data so far indicates that New Jersey lacks sufficient salaried attorney positions to address even a fraction of the cases that pour into our courts.”

“Other states, such as New York, offer innovative fellowship and public defender-style programs that provide additional legal representation to their immigrants,” Professor Nessel concluded.

“Legal service providers have taken some very important steps in recent years to increase access to immigration representation in New Jersey, but many people remain unrepresented,” said Farrin Anello, Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor at the Center for Social Justice. “Working together, I believe our community can achieve universal representation in immigration court.”