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COST OF COUNSEL IN IMMIGRATION: Economic Analysis of Proposal Providing Public Counsel to Indigent Persons Subject to Immigration Removal Proceedings

28 May 2014
By Dr. John D. Montgomery

In this paper, NERA Senior Vice President Dr. John D. Montgomery presents analysis of the estimated costs and offsetting savings of a proposal to create a program, entirely funded by the Federal government, to provide counsel to every indigent respondent in immigration removal proceedings under 8 U.S.C. § 1229a. Dr. Montgomery was asked to conduct this analysis pro bono by the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP on behalf of the New York City Bar Association.
 
Based on calculations using available data and reasonable assumptions, annual fiscal savings to the Federal government (between approximately $204 and $208 million) for detention, foster care, and transportation outlays would pay for most if not all of the entire annual cost of the proposal (approximately $208 million). These quantifiable fiscal savings are above and beyond the non-quantifiable and qualitative aspects of the proposal, which include improvements to the accuracy and efficiency of immigration removal proceedings and reduction in uncertainty for immigrants and their families.