New York City has taken steps to increase free legal representation in the future to people who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visa. Over $16 million in taxpayer’s money has been allotted in Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s proposed 2018 budget to pay for “legal representation for immigrant New Yorkers facing deportation and other immigration challenges.”
The $16 million marks a substantial increase from previous funding efforts by the city and appears to be a response to increase enforcement efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner, Nisha Agarwal, said “in the Trump administration there’s really no prioritizing of who they’re targeting.” Since 2013, undocumented immigrants were provided a public defender through the city’s New York Immigrant Family Reunification Project. Last year, the New York City Council provided $6.5 million through the Project to provide legal services to immigrants. The Project reported that 30% of those immigrants who had legal representation, were able to remain in the country.
Mr. DeBlasio’s move follows state efforts sponsored by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s who allotted $10 million in the 2018 state budget for the same purpose. The Governor stated he wanted “to ensure all immigrants, regardless of residency status, have access to representation.” The funding is part of a public-private partnership with the Carnegie Corporation and the Ford Foundation.
However, the increase funding came with a caveat. De Blasio said the city wouldn’t fund lawyers for immigrants facing deportation who have been convicted of certain serious violent crimes on which the city presently cooperates with ICE. The Mayor explained on Wednesday that “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).” Legal Aid representatives objected to the restrictions saying that, “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.”