[OP-ED]: New York’s Pioneering Initiative Gives Immigrants a Fighting Chance
The Trump administration’s extreme anti-immigration policies have terrorized immigrant communities all over the country, but New York, living up to its reputation as the quintessential immigrant state, is becoming the first in the nation to provide a fighting chance to all poor immigrants facing deportation.
Hopefully New York’s initiative will lead the way for other states with large immigrant populations to enact similar measures to defend their people against the current administration repressive policies.
In a groundbreaking decision, New York state’s 2017-2018 budget earmarks $10 million to provide free legal assistance to immigrants, $4 million of which have specifically been assigned to provide lawyers to all immigrants at risk of deportation by expanding the Vera Institute of Justice’s New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP).
“New York is a beacon of hope and opportunity for all, and immigrants have always been part of the fabric of this great state,” governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “During these stormy times, it’s critical all New Yorkers have access to their full rights under the law. The first-of-its-kind Liberty Defense Project will provide legal support to protect immigrants and ensure this state is living up to the values embodied by the Lady in our Harbor.”
Once you find out that detained immigrants do not have the right to a public defender if they can’t afford one on their own, it becomes crystal clear how important New York’s initiative really is. According to the Vera Institute, without legal counsel only 3% of detained immigrants avoid deportation, but providing public defenders their chances of winning and remaining in the United States increase by a whopping 1000%.
“All New Yorkers deserve to have a fair shot in court, and this funding will help thousands of immigrant families receive due process and the chance to remain together,” said Oren Root, director of Vera’s Center on Immigration and Justice.
The project will provide legal representation and assistance in the filing for permanent legal residency and deportation proceedings, and will facilitate the creation of emergency plans for parents in danger of deportation or detention.
“Unprecedented times call for visionary measures like the NYIFUP program,” said Angela Fernández, executive director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, one of the groups conforming the coalition. “And as mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers from our communities are increasingly pulled into a growing detention and deportation system, our New York elected officials are doing what is right and just by providing free court-appointed counsel for detained immigrants through this groundbreaking program.”
Yes, these are hard times for immigrants and this is a measure worthy of being imitated by other states with large undocumented populations living in fear of being torn apart from their families and the lives they have made for themselves with ingenuity and hard work. Several cities and states, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and California have already begun efforts to design similar programs.