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Eric Friedman
(212) 382-6754
Christina Bruno
(212) 382-6656


New York City Bar Association Issues Report on the Negative Effect of Immigration Detainers on Access to Jail Diversion Programs

 New York , July 9, 2009 – The New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Criminal Justice Operations has issued a report titled “Immigration Detainers Need Not Bar Access to Jail Diversion Programs.” The report is available at

The report addresses the role detainers play in preventing immigrant defendants from taking advantage of innovative alternative-to-incarceration programs and problem-solving courts, which have been successful in reducing recidivism and lowering costs to the criminal justice system. The report urges judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and service providers to work with federal immigration officials to remove barriers to participation in such programs.

The report suggests that large numbers of immigrants may be affected by the detainer issue, noting the beneficial impact that jail diversion programs may have for defendants who are facing removal. “Participation in treatment programs helps to establish evidence of rehabilitation, a positive factor for some forms of immigration relief,” the report states, adding that treatment programs may also provide defense against certain removal charges under some circumstances.

The Committee concludes the report by offering the following recommendations to judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and service providers:

  • Immigrants with detainers should not be automatically disqualified (formally or informally) from consideration for participation in jail diversions programs.
  • When an individual has a detainer on file but would otherwise be an appropriate candidate for a jail diversion program, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and services providers should work together to provide information to the Department of Homeland Security to request that the detainer be lifted. (Report includes a sample redacted letter with more detailed instructions.)
  • Key individuals and officials from the criminal justice system should engage in further discussions with the Department of Homeland Security to address broader solutions to the challenges that detainers pose for the adjudication of cases in the criminal justice system in New York.

About the Association
The New York City Bar Association ( was founded in 1870, and since then has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the profession, promoting reform of the law, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.


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