New Help Desk Provides Free Immigration Legal Services

Posted on September 15, 2016 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

The premier Spanish-language newspaper “El Diario” turns to Catholic Charities Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services C. Mario Russell for regular updates on immigration reform.  Read this week in Spanish in El Diario – and in English below — about free Catholic Charities legal assistance for immigrants facing deportation.

By C. Mario Russell

Last month Catholic Charities and the New York Immigration Court launched the “Immigration Court Helpdesk,” a key program designed to fill the gap for immigrants in deportation proceedings. 

Support During Deportation

The stress and anxiety experienced by those in deportation proceedings is profound and intense, especially as it often threatens to break up families and untie deep connections made over the years.  The principal purpose of the Court Helpdesk is to give immigrants support, information and guidance through the deportation process. This includes in-person information sessions, group presentations, and information about pro bono resources available to individuals with no legal representation.

High Demand

The program is in such high demand that during its first month of operation, Catholic Charities provided in-person informational sessions to 60 New Yorkers. This collaborative program expects to serve over 1000 individuals in the first year, a long-needed support.

Nearly Half in Immigration Court Have No Legal Counsel

According to data published by Syracuse University's Transitional Records Access Clearinghouse, there are currently 66,760 cases pending in the New York immigration court, with immigrants from nearly every country in the world appearing before judges. Most, however, are Spanish-speakers from the Americas. More than 15,000 of these cases are new, having been given notices to appear in immigration court by Immigration and Customs Enforcement just in the last year. According to the Department of Justice Fiscal Year 2015 Statistics Yearbook, approximately 42% of respondents in US immigration courts appear without counsel.

Unlike in criminal court, immigrants facing removal from the United States are not appointed free or low-cost lawyers.  As a result, most of them navigate the removal process without counsel, while others become vulnerable to exploitation and fraud. The Court Helpdesk program will provide New Yorkers facing removal with basic information about the court process, how to access and utilize available resources, and tips on finding competent representation.  As Jodi Ziesemer, the Supervising Attorney who oversees the program in New York says, "We are enthusiastic about working with our partner agencies throughout New York to maximize the reach of the Court Helpdesk program and facilitate referrals.”

Free Catholic Charities Legal Assistance

For immigrants facing deportation and looking for help, Catholic Charities will have Immigrants Court Helpdesk attorneys and volunteers available in the pro bono room at the New York Immigration Court nine days each month. They will conduct group presentations and individual information sessions. For more information about scheduling, call Catholic Charities New American’s Hotline at 1-800-566-7636.

Read this in Spanish in El Diario

Learn more about Catholic Charities legal assistance




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