Advancing Immigrant Legal Representation: The Next Fifteen Years 

By Muzaffar Chishti, Charles Kamasaki, Laura Vasquez
December 1, 2023

As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Robert A. Katzmann found that immigration matters represented a severe and growing bottleneck of the cases at the court.  Instead of treating this phenomenon purely as a case management problem, he chose to delve deeper to understand the underlying cause for the high level of appeals from immigration agency determinations.  Judge Katzmann concluded that lack of effective counsel was a major factor, and he turned that understanding into a cause.  In his 2007 clarion call, he implored the enlightened members of the legal community to rise to the occasion and address the critical and unmet need for legal representation for indigent immigrants facing deportation, including those seeking the humanitarian protection of asylum.  He followed the call with earnest and sustained action.  Using his gravitas and considerable persuasive power, he mobilized scholars, leaders in philanthropy, the legal community, and the corps of immigration judges to support an idea that birthed the Immigrant Justice Corps—an innovative approach to addressing the immigration legal representation challenge.