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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Americans are buying up rubber ducks ahead of Memorial Day, Nebraskans who want residential solar have a new lifeline, seven community colleges are working to provide students with a better experience, and Mississippi's "Big Muddy" gets restoration help.

NY advocates want immigrant legal services bill passed

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Friday, March 22, 2024   

Legislation in Albany would create the first right to counsel for people in immigration court.

The Access to Representation Act would provide immigrants the right to an attorney in their New York immigration cases, ending the tendency to represent themselves if they cannot afford one.

Estimates show a backlog of more than 330,000 immigration court cases, and fewer than half have attorneys. Studies show without legal counsel, migrants are less likely to remain in the U.S.

Marlene Galaz, director of immigrant rights policy for the New York Immigration Coalition, described what the bill would do.

"It has a six-year ramp-up to start implementing and building infrastructure," Galaz outlined. "Having a pipeline between law schools for law students to go into immigration practice, and getting to nonprofits and so on."

Galaz noted most opposition centers around the $150 million to fund the program but pointed out the total expenditure is less than 1% of the state's $229 billion budget. She added anti-immigrant rhetoric has also damaged support for the bill. Currently, it is in the state Senate Finance Committee.

The New York City Comptroller's office said enacting the bill would benefit the state financially. It could keep about 53,000 people from being deported, which would result in almost $8.5 billion in local, state and federal taxes over the next 30 years.

Galaz emphasized the influx of migrants has saturated the court system, leading to what could have been an avoidable backlog.

"I firmly believe that if these investments had been made when we first asked for them, I believe, like, three years ago, then we wouldn't be struggling," Galaz contended. "We would have had the infrastructure built to address an increase in welcoming our newest neighbors."

A Vera Institute survey showed 93% of New Yorkers across party lines and regions support access to attorneys for all people, including those in immigration court, and government-funded attorneys for them.


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