The Vera-administered New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) is the first public defender program in the country for immigrants facing deportation. NYIFUP, which has received $4.9 million in funding from the New York City Council for the current fiscal year, provides detained indigent immigrants facing deportation at New York’s Varick Street Immigration Court with free, high-quality legal representation. The project, which seeks to keep immigrants with their families and in their communities, will also serve detained New York City residents whose deportation cases are being heard in nearby New Jersey locations.

NYIFUP responds to a pressing need for improved access to legal services for noncitizens facing deportation in New York. Findings from the New York Immigrant Representation Study show that 67 percent of those who are detained go through their removal proceedings without counsel and only three percent will prevail. Those who receive representation, however, are 10 times more likely to obtain a successful outcome in immigration court.

The project seeks to increase court effectiveness and decrease detention times for those it represents, thereby saving taxpayer dollars, while maximizing due process. By keeping families together, the project lowers the social and economic costs that would otherwise be incurred by the City and State of New York and New York employers. NYIFUP provides a replicable model for other jurisdictions around the country.

NYIFUP is a collaborative of Vera, the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, The Center for Popular Democracy, Make the Road New York, and the Immigration Justice Clinic of Cardozo Law School. Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, and the Legal Aid Society were selected in a competitive bidding process to deliver these universal representation services to immigrants.

Why focus on families?

Between 2005 and 2010, more than 7,000 U.S.-citizen children in New York City lost a parent to deportation. In addition to the financial hardship caused by the loss of a primary breadwinner, these children have been shown to suffer significant emotional and psychological effects. The legal representation provided by NYIFUP supports New York’s vibrant immigrant community by reducing unnecessary detainment and unjust deportation of individuals who have strong ties to their communities.

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