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Uncovering America's methamphetamine history; PA Early Intervention programs vital for child development; measuring long-term impact of the O.J. Simpson trial on media literacy.

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President Biden's name could be left off the ballot in Alabama and Ohio, the Justice Dept. mandates background checks for gun show purchases, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds moves to allow state police to arrest undocumented migrants.

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Housing advocates fear rural low-income folks who live in aging USDA housing could be forced out, small towns are eligible for grants to enhance civic participation, and North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues.

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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