New York to provide free legal aid to immigrants facing deportation

Sam Ogozalek | Asst. News Editor

New York state is offering legal counsel to immigrants facing deportation as part of a $11.5 million expansion to the Liberty Defense Project.

New York state will now offer legal counsel to immigrants facing deportation as part of a $11.5 million expansion to the Liberty Defense Project. The public defender program is the first statewide universal representation program for immigrants facing deportation in the United States.

The Liberty Defense Project is a public-private partnership between the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford Foundation, according to CNN Money. For the expansion of the project, $10 million is coming from the state and the rest is from private charities.

The largest portion of the funding, $4 million, will go to the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, run by the Vera Institute of Justice, per a release from the group.

“The story of New York is the story of immigrants and this funding builds upon this administration’s long-standing work to protect those seeking a better life as New Yorkers,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the New York Daily News.

NYIFUP provides free legal counsel to immigrants facing deportation, per The Bronx Defenders, a public defenders organization in New York City that works with the program.

The project began as a pilot program in New York City — founded by academics and advocates and funded by a $500,000 grant from the New York City Council, said Emily Tucker, a senior staff attorney for immigrant rights at the Center for Popular Democracy, one of the founding coalition members of NYIFUP.

Since the pilot program ended, CPD has secured $4 million from the state to expand coverage throughout New York and identify the legal service providers best positioned to help immigrants facing deportation, Tucker said. She added that CPD has been providing legal representation for immigrants in New York City for years, but is now looking to bring that representation upstate.

“I think that what’s amazing about this program is that immigrants in New York are finally going to get due process,” Tucker said. “It’s insane that we lock up immigrants without providing them with lawyers. People can be locked up indefinitely without ever seeing counsel and that’s not what was intended when the Constitution was drafted; it’s just completely unethical.”

CPD has worked on the project alongside groups like the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at the Cordozo School of Law and Make the Road New York. CPD was actively involved in advocating to get funds for the program and shaping NYIFUP into what it is today, Tucker said.

CPD, alongside the Cordozo School of Law and Make the Road, compiled a report that detailed the effects of legal representation for immigrants facing deportation in court. The report found that with legal representation, immigrants were 1,000 percent more likely to have a successful case preventing deportation compared to immigrants without attorneys.

In addition, the CDP report states that NYIFUP will reduce costs to New York state employers by reducing turnover costs when hiring and training employees to replace detained or deported immigrant workers, Tucker said. The report states that with more immigrants residing in New York being released from detention or avoiding deportation, costs for turnover would drop by $4 million annually.

Child welfare costs will also drop, according to the report. Tucker said when a child loses their parents to detention or deportation, there are great costs to the state in areas such as health care, along with a loss of revenue when children drop out of school.

While New York is the only state to have a program like this, other states and cities are working toward policies that give immigrants legal representation during deportation hearings. There are active campaigns in Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia, Tucker said, and California is the only other state beginning to embrace public defense for immigrants.

“It’s incredibly exciting that New York is going to have the first ever statewide universal representation program for immigrants,” Tucker said. “We need to work on making this the norm, not making it the exception.”


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