City Council fully funds program that provides free legal counsel to immigrants facing deportation

Courtesy of William Alatriste/NYC Council

The City Council is dedicating $16.6 million of this year’s budget to fund and expand the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), the nation’s first public defender system for detained immigrants facing deportation.

The program is designed to provide free legal representation from providers such as The Legal Aid Society, the Bronx Defenders and the Brooklyn Defenders Services to eligible detained immigrants facing deportation.

According to an estimate by the Vera Institute of Justice, New Yorkers represented by a NYIFUP attorney have a 48 percent success rate in their cases, as opposed to a 4 percent success rate by immigrants who lack legal representation.

“In response to Trump’s continued demonization of immigrants and to fight against the ICE deportation machine, it is evident that we need more attorneys to represent New Yorkers in need,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said. “No family should be torn apart because because they can’t afford a lawyer while fighting deportation. Last week, in the ongoing efforts to speed deportations, the Executive Office for Immigration Review opened a new immigration court at 290 Broadway. As part of the Council’s long-standing commitment in helping immigrant New Yorkers, I am proud of my colleagues at the City Council as we were able to dedicate $16.6 million to provide lawyers to push back against the federal administration’s lack of regard for due process.”

In response to the increased number of deportation cases, funding for the NYIFUP has been increasing. In fiscal year 2017, the Council dedicated $6,582,000; $10 million in 2018; $11.6 million in 2019; and now $16.6 million for 2020.

“This funding will help protect immigrant New Yorkers who are at risk of being deported,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, the chair of the Financial Committee. “It’s no secret that our nation’s immigration system has been broken for decades, and that the situation has been made worse by the Trump administration. These dollars will ensure that legal service providers have the resources they need to defend immigrant New Yorkers from unjust policies that should never have seen the light of day in the first place.”

NYIFUP providers have been representing detained immigrants since 2014, offering critical legal services to New Yorkers facing deportation. Because of case backlog in the city, with over 115,000 cases, more and more immigrant New Yorkers are remaining in detention while their legal case completion timelines are extended.

“Our detained clients and all immigrant New Yorkers facing deportation proceedings in our courts deserve full transparency by EOIR and DOJ to ensure that their fundamental fairness and due process rights are upheld,” said Jennifer Williams, Deputy Attorney-in-Charge of the Immigration Law Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “The rapid expansion and complete lack of transparency around the opening of new immigration courtrooms underscores this administration’s intent to speed up deportations and the critical need for right to counsel. We thank the City Council for fully funding NYIFUP so that we can continue to zealously represent our detained clients to ensure that no one ever has to face deportation proceedings alone.”