Obstacles to obtaining documents and interpreters as well as other problems "combine to undermine the good-faith efforts of even the most committed volunteer lawyers who have many competing pressures from their full-time jobs."
The project also would provide basic legal support services such as access to experts, translators, social workers, mental health professionals and investigators.
The tough part is the money, which the project's authors estimate would require about $6 million annually to provide service to some 1,800 clients per year.
The money would come through "a reliable public funding stream," the report says, noting there are precedents for this, including New York City Council funding for nonprofits serving immigrants and the 2011 funding by New York state to hire 10 new immigration attorneys -- one each at New York City criminal defender borough offices, to ensure defendants know the immigration consequences of a guilty plea.
But the task force also has emphasized a role to be played by private foundations and grants.
Markowitz said the "philanthropic sector could play a critical role in launching the initiative," and establishing the groundwork in which government funding for indigent immigrants would become steady.
"A little by the way of analogy is the way the city has moved into funding institutional defenders in the family court context," he said. "When New Yorkers show up in Family Court, there are now institutional defenders and we are looking for the same kind of movement in the deportation realm."
The effort would be overseen and managed by a coordinating organization that would serve as the primary grantee and fiscal agent, determining reimbursement rates, selecting providers, negotiating and awarding subcontracts and coordinating training.
"This proposal recognizes that justice is strained when thousands of New Yorkers each year face banishment from their homes and families and must navigate, without counsel, a legal system our courts describe as 'labyrinthine,'" the report states. "By implementing the Project … we can protect New York families, lessen dependence on government safety net programs, ensure a measure of justice for New York residents, and become a model for other cities and states that value their immigrant communities."
Katzmann emphasized last week the important role that pro bono lawyers have played in helping immigrants facing deportation, but said they only meet a fraction of the demand.