NYC Immigrant Advocates To Mayor de Blasio: Don’t Deny New Yorkers Due Process
THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2017

The Legal Aid Society, Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Rory Lancman, defender organizations, local advocates, labor unions and leading progressive groups rallied at City Hall today demanding that Mayor Bill de Blasio reverse course and drop a proposal in his Executive Budget that would restrict access to counsel for detained immigrants in removal proceedings who have been convicted of certain crimes.

In his FY2018 Executive Budget unveiling last month, Mayor de Blasio announced $16 million in additional funding for immigrant legal services, building on the successes of the City Council program, the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP). The Constitution currently does not guarantee a right to counsel for individuals going through removal proceedings. NYIFUP bridges the gap and provides due process for many who cannot afford representation and are detained by immigration authorities.

Advocates across the city lauded City Hall’s proposed investment that would help direct legal providers keep up with the rising need in the era of Trump.

A few days later on the Brian Lehrer show, Mayor de Blasio soured the good news saying that the City will not fund lawyers for immigrants facing deportation if they have been convicted of certain crimes.

NYIFUP was founded on the same principles of fairness and justice as Gideon v. Wainwright – no none, regardless of the crime they committed, should be denied an attorney because of money, and certainly not because of the nature of the charges against them.

The Mayor’s position is a direct affront to NYIFUP’s model and efforts to solidify New York City as an immigrant sanctuary. His proposed carve out would leave many New Yorkers who NYIFUP has helped under the current structure stranded without counsel.

Representation in removal proceedings truly makes a difference. A study on New York City immigration representation found that detained immigrants who had legal representation were 10 times more likely to beat their case, and those who lack representation prevailed only 3% of the time in court.

Earlier this week, a broad coalition of leading New York City organizations including legal providers, civil rights organizations, immigration advocates, local community groups, activists organizations and labor unions signed on to a joint letter on behalf of their constituents urging Mayor de Blasio to build on the City Council’s successes with NYIFUP and drop the proposed carve out.

NYIFUP has already emerged as a national model, with Seattle recently relying on NYIFUP when implementing their own right to counsel program for detained immigrants this year. Other states and cities have contacted NYIFUP members for direction on how to replicate the program within their jurisdictions.

Organizations that attended the rally included The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, Make the Road New York, New York Civil Liberties Union, Working Families Party, Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic, the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, the Center for Popular Democracy, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, labor unions, community organizations and other stakeholders.

“Mayor de Blasio shouldn’t hold the keys to due process and stonewall immigrant New Yorkers from a fair shot in court,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice and Adriene Holder, Attorney-In-Charge of the Civil Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “Any attempt by City Hall to deprive the rights that NYIFUP affords immigrant communities is regressive and flies in the face of true New City Values.”

“New York City has long recognized that anyone facing deportation deserves due process and proper legal representation. While the Mayor's proposed budget continues this practice for detained New Yorkers, he has asserted those with certain criminal convictions should be excluded. Every New Yorker deserves due process and should have legal assistance during deportation proceedings. I join the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project and the dozens of legal and community-based organizations calling for universal representation for people facing the threat of deportation,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca – Chair of the New York City Council’s Immigration Committee.

"The Mayor's insistence on denying due process to certain immigrant New Yorkers will further fuel Donald Trump's deportation machine. We have watched this same song and dance with the Mayor before: he talks a big game about protecting immigrants from Trump, but refuses to take the actions necessary to do so. If the Mayor is serious about backing up his tough talk against Trump, for once, then he should ensure every immigrant New Yorker has access to counsel," said Council Member Rory Lancman – Chair of the New York City Council’s Courts and Legal Services Committee.

"This is not a radical proposal. We're talking about something that is deeply embedded in our values as a society: the right of due process regardless of status. And it's is simply not a right if you get to pick who gets it. The mayor's attempt to do so is dehumanizing for our clients and demoralizing for everyone who's invested so much to see this program, the first in the nation, be a model for sanctuary cities across the nation,” Jennifer Friedman, Managing Director of the Immigration Practice, The Bronx Defenders.

“Parsing out justice, due process and fairness to some people and not others is, simply stated, wrong. When lawyers represent people in immigration court, we can be assured that no one is deported based on a mistake or wrongfully under the law. Everyone deserves this assurance and any attempt to limit this right should be opposed with every fiber in our beings as Americans and New Yorkers,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services.

"New York’s provision of legal aid to immigrants facing deportation has been a model for the rest of the country. Limiting access to the program is particularly dangerous now, as the federal government promises to escalate detentions and deportations in immigrant communities in New York City and nationwide. When the stakes are as high as deportation, everyone, no matter their history, deserves an attorney. Due process demands no less,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union.

"With immigrant communities under attack, we need progressive leaders with the courage to stand strong and reject Trump's attempt to divide and demonize immigrant communities. Rolling back the City's promise of due process for all immigrants would be a step backwards for immigrants in New York City and across the nation," said Professor Peter L. Markowitz, Director of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo School of Law.

Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said: “When immigrant community members come to us after an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid, there is nothing more powerful than being able to say ‘New York City has your back.’ All New Yorkers should have a right to basic due process in immigration court. To ensure that, New York City must not turn its back on our communities; we must provide universal representation to detained New Yorkers in immigration court through the path-breaking New York Immigrant Family Unity Project.”

"Our communities have been fighting for decades not only against unjust deportation, but also against biased policing, disproportionate prosecution and punishment, and mass incarceration. Today it is more important than ever that we stand up for the rights of all immigrants, and especially those who have had contact with the criminal legal system. Everyone is entitled to due process, period,” said Ana Maria Archila, Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy.

“For decades, our communities have fought tirelessly to protect our fellow New Yorkers from the unjust immigration consequences of contact with the criminal legal system. Today, with the federal government fixed on turning back the clock on our gains, we must continue to build on the successes. Victories which define us as a city -- including our one-of-a- kind in the nation universal representation program (NY Immigrant Family Unity Project). Together, we can honor the work of our communities to ensure the rights of the most vulnerable New Yorkers," said Angela Fernandez, Esq, Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

"Member faith organizations of the New Sanctuary Coalition are deeply disappointment that immigrants may be denied access to counsel and instead judged based on a particular criminal conviction. We support the rights of ALL immigrants, and have first-hand knowledge of the many benefits when an immigrant is represented by quality lawyers such as those in NYIFUP. Restricting NYIFUP to only a certain class of people interferes with the rights of all, and contradicts our faith perspective that every single individual deserves to be treated with dignity and respect," said Ravi Ragbir, executive director of New Sanctuary Coalition.

“Guided by our strong belief that all New Yorkers deserve an equal opportunity to legal representation, the 1,200 members of our union stand committed and ready to serve affected communities no matter their previous legal history. We reject the Mayor's assertion that legal representation should be dependent on an arbitrary list of violations compiled by the City, but rather, representation in all proceedings should be afforded as a right to all New Yorkers. We strongly urge Mayor DeBlasio to fulfill his promise to make NYC a Sanctuary City by immediately restoring unconditional funding to provide legal representation to those caught up in the intersection between Broken Windows policing and mass deportation,” said Deborah L. Wright, Esq., President - UAW Local 2325 - Assoc. of Legal Aid Attorneys (AFL-CIO).