New York Funds Lawyers For Immigrants Facing Deportation

by Chris Tognotti
Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The state of New York is taking a big step towards helping its low-income immigrant population get a fair shake in court. In Governor Andrew Cuomo's 2017-2018 budget, a full $10 million has been carved out to provide legal assistance to immigrants, and $4 million of the funds have specifically been allotted to provide lawyers for New York immigrants at risk of deportation.

The money is going towards expanding the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), a project of the Vera Institute of Justice dedicated to ensuring that immigrants who're detained or facing deportation are provided with legal representation. The money was reportedly committed by Cuomo and the state's Independent Democratic Conference ― the conference's leader, state senator Jeff Klein, hailed the importance of the NYIFUP's mission.

The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project provides a valuable service for immigrants who face deportation without fair representation. The work done by NYIFUP is so critical that the Independent Democratic Conference is proud to award $4 million of a historic $10 million legal aid fund to its work ensuring that immigrants have legal counsel. No person should face a legal proceeding without an attorney, and no family should be ripped apart because they couldn't afford counsel. The Independent Democratic Conference is proud to knock down that financial wall so that NYIFUP can protect our immigrant communities.

The upshot is that any immigrant who's detained or facing deportation will be able to get basic legal advice and representation, a virtual necessity for them to have any hope of prevailing in court. New York is the first state to take this kind of sweeping step ― while immigrants can always purchase legal services to help protect them from deportation and detainment, they don't automatically receive public defenders if they don't have the money.

"All New Yorkers deserve to have a fair shot in court," said Oren Root, the director of the Vera Institute's Center on Immigration and Justice. "And this funding will help thousands of immigrant families receive due process and the chance to remain together."

It's no secret why these kinds of programs for low-income and undocumented immigrants have had a sense of urgency behind them recently. All throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump was incredibly vociferous and demagogic about his desire to deport undocumented immigrants, although how he said he specifically wanted to go about it changed slightly over time.

The constant, however, was that he wanted to increase deportations and immigration enforcement raids, and that's been borne out by the first months of his presidency. For any immigrants who face this peril in the state of New York, however, there's now a way for them to secure legal counsel and get the basic help they need to defend themselves.