Immigration Advocates in New Jersey are Praising Plan that Provides Free Legal Aid to Detainees

Jul 30, 2020

Detainee in Federal Prison
Credit npr.org

Immigration advocates in New Jersey are praising a two-year old state program that provides free legal aid to people in federal immigration detention. More than HALF of detainees who were provided with lawyers by the program were released. 

One of detainees who got released was North Plainfield resident Fernando Fernandez Dominguez … who was picked up during an ICE raid in 20-17. Fernandez Dominguez had a private attorney but was not happy with the attorney’s representation. It wasn’t until he got a lawyer through Rutgers University’s legal clinic that he got released.

“I have witnessed about three people who paid a private attorney and they never answered the phone or they did a bad representation. Everyone deserves to have a lawyer.”

A new report found that 52-percent of people with a pro bono attorney through the program were released from detention … compared with 18 percent who didn’t have representation.

Liana Katz … a Rutgers University P-h-D student and a research fellow with the group Make the Road New Jersey … wrote the report.  

“Our report finds that DDDI helps detained individuals secure their release, thereby safeguarding public health.”

Federal immigration detention centers have seen coronavirus outbreaks during the pandemic … and advocates say that’s another reason why detainees need legal representation. The program cost the state 3-million dollars this fiscal year.

Deborah Cornavaca, deputy chief of staff to Governor Phil Murphy, says the governor wants to keep funding the program.

“It is absolutely without question that our commitment to this work remains steadfast. Now our job is to work together to see that we can continue the funding for the program.”

State tax revenues have plunged during the coronavirus pandemic … and officials expect the financial fallout from the outbreak to continue for months or years.