As New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s March 5th FY2020 Budget Address approaches, the Delaware-New Jersey chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) has joined more than 30 other law organizations, legal experts, and faith and labor leaders in a letter urging him to fully fund a universal representation program that provides appointed counsel for all low-income immigrants who are detained and facing possible deportation in New Jersey.
Last year, under Gov. Murphy’s leadership, the State of New Jersey allocated $2.1 million to launch a new, publicly funded legal defense program for individuals who are detained and facing deportation in the state. This funding, while a groundbreaking achievement, guarantees representation for only a fraction of the more than 2,000 immigrants detained in the state who cannot afford a lawyer.
New Jersey joins New York and California in providing state-funded legal defense for immigrants detained, facing deportation. “Governor Murphy has a unique opportunity to lead the way in developing a national model for universal representation for those facing deportation, which is fundamental to the principles of due process that define our system of justice at its best. We implore him to ensure that the initial program allocation approved under his leadership in FY2019 achieves its intended impact by dedicating the necessary funds in FY2020 to fully fund this important program,” said Stanley Holdorf, Chair of the Delaware-New Jersey NLG.
As immigration arrests rise across the state, guaranteeing due process and access to legal representation is all the more urgent. In 2015, approximately two-thirds of immigrants detained in New Jersey fought their deportation without legal counsel. In New Jersey, immigrants are three times more likely to prevail in their cases and avoid being needlessly separated from their families when they have a lawyer. Detained immigrants are particularly vulnerable when they do not have access to competent legal representation—only 14% of detained immigrants in New Jersey were able to avoid deportation without it.
Providing access to counsel for detained immigrants will also boost the state’s economy. According to New Jersey Policy Perspective, New Jersey employers pay $5.9 million in turnover-related costs annually as they are forced to replace detained or deported employees. The state loses $18 million in wages and $1.6 million in total tax revenue annually from immigrants who are detained and cannot provide for their families.
As the coalition letter to Gov. Murphy states,” Deportation is one of the harshest penalties an individual can face under U.S. law, yet most immigrants do not have the right to appointed counsel and cannot afford an attorney. Access to legal representation ensures due process and an opportunity for a fair hearing and keeps our immigration system efficient. We respectfully request your support to establish a program in New Jersey that will keep our families together, support our economy and ensure due process for all.”
In addition to the DE-NJ NLG, signatories to the letter include the Archdiocese of Newark, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, American Friends Service Committee, Seton Hall Law School Immigrants’ Rights/International Human Rights Clinic, Rutgers Law School Immigrant Rights Clinic, Make the Road New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective, UU FaithAction NJ, First Friends of NJ/NY.
Read about the human cost of immigration arrests in the report, Due Process for All: Promoting Access to Justice for Immigrants in New Jersey.
Photo: “International Workers Day” by Fibonacci Blue, used under CC BY-SA 2.0