Saturday, April 8, 2017
New York State Becomes First in the Nation to Provide Lawyers for All Immigrants Detained and Facing Deportation
The Vera Institute of Justice and partner organizations today announced that detained New Yorkers in all upstate immigration courts will now be eligible to receive legal counsel during deportation proceedings. The 2018 New York State budget included a grant of $4 million to significantly expand the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), a groundbreaking public defense program for immigrants facing deportation that was launched in New York City in 2013.
New York has become the first state to ensure that no immigrant will be detained and permanently separated from his or her family solely because of the inability to afford a lawyer. Without counsel, a study shows, only 3% of detained, unrepresented immigrants avoid deportation, but providing public defenders can improve an immigrant’s chance of winning and remaining in the United States by as much as 1000%.
NYIFUP has been operating in two of the four affected upstate immigration courts on a limited basis since 2014 with funding from the New York State Assembly and the IDC. In the just-ended fiscal year, the funding was sufficient to meet less than 20% of the need upstate. In New York City, NYIFUP has been representing all financially eligible, otherwise unrepresented detained immigrants since 2014 with funding from the City Council.
Research has shown that keeping immigrant families together saves money for the state’s taxpayers in increased tax revenues and less need for families left behind to draw on the social safety net. New York State employers also receive significant economic benefits from avoiding the loss of productivity when their employees are detained and deported, and the consequent need to identify and train replacement workers.
The first public defender program in the country for immigrants facing deportation, the NYIFUP Coalition includes Vera, the Immigration Justice Clinic of Cardozo Law School, the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Make the Road New York, and The Center for Popular Democracy. The Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project is a NYIFUP Coalition partner upstate. Brooklyn Defender Services, the Legal Aid Society, and The Bronx Defenders are Coalition partners in New York City.
Several cities and states, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and California have recently begun efforts to design similar programs.