A recent study finds that thousands of immigrants in Southwest Florida have pending deportation cases in U.S. immigration courts - about 4,100 in Lee and Collier Counties.
The data, from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse of Syracuse University, ranks Lee and Collier fifth and sixth for the most immigration cases in Florida. But a relatively low percentage will likely be represented by an attorney.
"Since it's not a criminal proceeding, there's no constitutional right to an attorney," said immigration attorney Pablo Hurtado. "You have a right to have an attorney, but not for the government to provide you with one."
He said that while some charities offer pro bono attorneys, the waiting lines are long and many immigrants end up representing themselves.
Congressman Francis Rooney wants immigrants to the U.S. to be prepared to contribute.
"What I hope that we can do is change the concept of citizenship, where people coming in here are based on skills," Rooney said. "That we will be able to put work in welfare, to get people off of welfare, to come and do some these jobs."
Hurtado said that fees for immigration attorneys run into the thousands since they have to travel to Miami or Orlando for the hearings.