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Varick Removal Defense Project


Immigration Intake Line: 212.382.6710

The Varick Project of the City Bar Justice Center provides full representation to detained New York immigrants facing removal from the United States for minor crimes. The Project specializes in cancellation applications and waivers available to detained lawful permanent residents and non-lawful permanent residents. Our project focuses on detained immigrants because they have the greatest barriers to quality legal representation.

History of the Project

While the full representation project began in the fall of 2011, the Varick Project has a rich history and has evolved substantially over time. The Varick Project began in 2008 in response to a petition signed by 100 detainees decrying poor detention conditions and a lack of access to counsel at the Varick Street Federal Detention Facility. Galvanized by the petition, the CBJC collaborated with the Ameri-can Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Legal Aid Society to launch the NYC Know Your Rights Project. Under this original model, volunteer attorneys from participating law firms conducted screening interviews with detainees in the facility and worked with volunteer AILA immigration experts to determine whether immigration relief was available. The volunteer attorneys made referrals to other pro bono or low bono counsel when appropriate. Varick I counseled approximately 400 detainees and found that 39.2% of them had possible meritorious claims for various forms of relief from removal.

Detainees Interviewed and Advised 750
Detainees Released to Date 22
Firms Accepting Full Representation Cases 23
Detainee Countries of Origin 87

The next phase of the Varick Project - Varick II - started in 2010, after Immigration and Customs Enforce-ment (ICE) closed the Varick Street Federal Detention Center and began to detain immigrants in facilities outside of New York City, but in the New York Metropolitan area. When ICE made this change, the Legal Aid Society received a contract to do Know Your Rights presentations at the facilities through the Legal Orientation Program (LOP). The LOP referred detainees to Varick II, where volunteers then conducted in-terviews, offered advice, and made referrals to pro bono or low bono attorneys. During phases I and II of the Varick Project, the volunteer attorneys did not commit to take on a case for full representation.

What the Varick Project does now

The Varick Project now places a variety of detention cases (primarily cancellation) with leading law firms for full representation on behalf of detainees. The Project receives referrals from New York defender organizations for an initial screening. If appropriate, a screened case is placed by the City Bar Justice Center with a team of volunteer attorneys from a participating law firm. We recommend each case be staffed by two volunteer attorneys. The Varick Project acts as the super-vising organization and provides in-house training, expertise and mentoring through the Fragomen Fellow to the volunteer attorneys. The law firm of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP sponsor the Fellow, who is also available to co-counsel.

The Varick Project provides a wonderful opportunity for attorneys of all backgrounds to gain valuable liti-gation experience as well as insight into the complexities of immigration law. Taking on a case with the CBJC’s Varick Project is a fully gratifying experience that provides much-needed legal representation to New Yorkers held in detention. To volunteer with the Varick Project, please contact Barbara Camacho, the Fragomen Fellow at

Read the report: "NYC Know Your Rights Project: An Innovative Pro Bono Response to the Lack of Counsel for Indigent Immigrant Detainees"

Read a complementary report from the New York City Bar's Immigration & Nationality Law Committee, entitled "Report on the Right to Counsel for Detained Individuals in Removal Proceedings"