New York Daily News: NYC's $16M Lawyer Fund Won't Help All Undocumented Immigrants
MONDAY, MAY 01, 2017

Maria Navarro and Sarah Gillman push back on the Mayor’s proposal that the city won't fund lawyers for immigrants facing deportation if they've been convicted of certain crimes, the Daily News writes.

New York Daily News
NYC's $16M Lawyer Fund Won't Help All Undocumented Immigrants
By Jillian Jorgensen
April 28, 2017

Mayor de Blasio's pledge to spend $16 million on lawyers for undocumented immigrants comes with a big catch — and it's got one legal service provider fuming.

De Blasio said the city won't fund lawyers for immigrants facing deportation if they've been convicted of certain crimes — the same 170 on which the city cooperates with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainers that start the process of deportation.

"If we believe as a matter of policy and law that's appropriate, we're not going to provide legal services to stop that (deportation)," de Blasio said on WNYC Friday.

The Legal Aid Society — which just two days ago praised the mayor for announcing the expanded funding for legal services — blasted him for those comments Friday.

"To put any restrictions on this program would be an affront to due process and not ensure that all individuals who are detained and facing deportation are provided with legal counsel," said Sarah Gillman, a supervising attorney at Legal Aid.

The City Council spent $6.5 million last year to fund the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, which is staffed by attorneys from Legal Aid, the Bronx Defenders and the Brooklyn Defenders and has provided legal coverage to all detained immigrants facing deportation — with no screening except regarding their income.

The Council asked the mayor's office to baseline that funding for legal services, and it went further — bumping it up to $16 million, but with the mayor's eligibility caveat. The money wouldn't necessarily go to the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project — unlike Council discretionary money that can go directly to a provider, it will have to go out to bid.

Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Nisha Agarwal said the money would allow the city to help more people who haven't been detained but are facing deportation for legal help, especially key because "in the Trump administration there's really no prioritizing of who they're targeting."

"What we are looking at is the more than 8,000 people who are facing deportation as of 2017 numbers, and what we want to do with our dollars is maximize helping as many of those folks prevent deportation as we can," Agarwal said.

But Legal Aid argued that the rules would exclude some of the detained people they've helped under the Council-funded program. Maria Navarro, acting attorney-in-charge of Legal Aid's Immigration Law Unit, said some of those convicted of serious charges and facing deportation actually turned out to be citizens, or had their convictions tossed out.

"To not allow us to meet with everyone to be able to assess or determine whether someone is eligible to stay in this country, where many of them have been all of their lives, would be a real outrage," she said.

This article originally appeared in the New York Daily News.