One of the nation's preeminent authorities on immigration and asylum law, Stephen Yale-Loehr, Adjunct Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, Co-Director of the Immigrant Appellate Law and Advocacy Clinic, and Attorney of Counsel at the Ithaca law firm Miller Mayer LLP, was named to the New York State Bar Association's Special Committee on Immigration Representation. The committee, which is charged with drafting recommendations to improve immigrant representation in New York State, is expected to deliver its findings in April 2012.
"Stephen Yale-Loehr's expertise in immigration law is second to none, which makes us very excited to have him on this committee," said Joanne Macri, committee co-chair and Director of the Criminal Defense Immigration Project of the New York State Defenders Association. "Immigration is an enormously complex field that is changing every day, not only through case law but also through policy and practice. To create a practical, effective set of standards requires someone with Stephen's vast knowledge and experience."
The committee's challenges are clear: Unlike defendants in criminal court, noncitizens in immigration hearings are not entitled to free legal counsel. Most detainees appear without representation, and the vast majority of those with counsel are represented by private attorneys, with clinics and pro bono attorneys accounting for fewer than two percent of cases. The newly-released New York Immigrant Representation Study, which identified legal counsel as the most important factor in a successful outcome, described a "significant unmet need for competent representation."
"Outcomes should not be determined by whether a person has an attorney," said Yale-Loehr, who co-authored a recent article in the Cornell International Law Journal that argued that people fleeing persecution have a constitutional right to counsel in immigration proceedings. "It is critical to have trained, effective representation for immigrants, and this committee's work is an important step toward that goal."
The committee will seek input from immigration judges and attorneys, and along with developing written standards for representation, will recommend ways to improve continuing legal education, create referral services to assist respondents, and expand pro bono opportunities around the state. "By drafting concrete proposals to increase the quantity and quality of attorneys assisting immigrants," said Yale-Loehr, "and by implementing those recommendations here in our clinic, we continue to make immigrant representation an essential part of Cornell Law School's mission to educate lawyers in the best sense."