AILA Shares Concern About Representation of Immigrants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, December 19, 2011

George Tzamaras or Jenny Werwa
202-507-7649 / 202-507-7628 /

WASHINGTON, DC – A new report authored and released today by the Steering Committee of The New York Immigrant Representation Study, an initiative launched by Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, found that because there is no right to appointed counsel in immigration court, many immigrants represent themselves in removal proceedings with unsuccessful outcomes. For example, 74% of non-detained individuals with representation have successful outcomes, while only 13% of non-detained individuals without counsel are successful.

The report also found that, for immigrants who did have legal representation in immigration court between mid-2010 and mid-2011, 33% received “inadequate” legal assistance and 14% received “grossly inadequate” representation. Judge Katzmann told The New York Times that he blames predatory lawyers who are not familiar with immigration law for much of the poor representation.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) recognizes the problem of inadequate representation for immigrants. “In their daily practice, our members often have to help our clients deal with the consequences of having gone to court without representation or with inadequate representation,” said AILA President Eleanor Pelta.

“Immigration law is complex and ever changing. It can be a mine field for lawyers who don’t specialize in this field and unfortunately the client is the ultimate loser. Immigrant clients are particularly vulnerable because they often do not speak English and are unfamiliar with how the American legal system works,” added Pelta.

“Immigrant communities are at risk for poor or fraudulent representation. AILA focuses its efforts on advancing the quality of immigration law practice, enhancing the professional development of its members while educating the public about obtaining proper representation and avoiding those who engage in the unauthorized practice of law,” Pelta concluded.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 11121906.