Access to Representation

On January 15, 2020, New York became the first state in the nation to introduce legislation that would guarantee all immigrants have access to a lawyer when facing deportation. The Access to Representation Act is an essential piece of legislation that would empower immigrants to protect themselves and their families.

In criminal courts, the Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to counsel—but because immigration courts are civil, immigrants are not guaranteed that same right. Individuals facing deportation charges who can’t afford legal counsel must find a non-profit able to help or represent themselves. But existing resources for affordable legal services are scarce, particularly outside of New York City where two-thirds of all providers are located.

Having a lawyer represent someone in deportation proceedings makes a huge difference. 78% of immigrants with lawyers win their cases, versus 15% who don’t have legal help. For immigrants who are detained, only 3% win their cases without a lawyer.

Investing in legitimate legal resources will help eligible legal immigrants protect their rights during heightened, and often unchecked, immigration enforcement. Many of these immigrants will go on to obtain citizenship. It will also protect all immigrants who are vulnerable to fraudulent schemes, as non-authorized providers often seek to fill that gap in the market.

No person should have to navigate our complex legal system without expert help, which is why the NYIC is working closely with partner organizations to guarantee access to legal counsel for all immigrant New Yorkers, regardless of income.

For more information on the campaign, download our one-pager. For questions about the campaign or how your organization can get involved, contact Nicole Catá, Director of Immigrant Rights Policy at