New York Needs Proactive Solutions to Support the State's Welcoming Response to Migrants

Vera Institute of Justice Shares Policies State and Federal Lawmakers Can Act On Now

(New York - September 27, 2023) Following New York’s city and state leaders’ responses to new immigrant and migrant arrivals to the state, the Vera Institute of Justice has laid out humane and effective immigration policies that will support stability and safety for all New Yorkers. Shayna Kessler, Vera’s associate director of advocacy for its Advancing Universal Representation initiative, issued the following statement:

“We are deeply concerned by the danger of overheated, xenophobic rhetoric that threatens to poison the public discourse on immigration in New York. Lawmakers at all levels of government can demonstrate historic leadership by responding to the present challenges with practical policies that strengthen and support all of New York and our communities of immigrants.”

In spite of this divisive climate, New Yorkers continue to welcome immigrants. In a new survey of New Yorkers from Siena College, 84 percent agreed that most migrants coming to New York are simply looking to create a better life for themselves and their families.

Large majorities of New Yorkers also believe that immigrants bring a renewed vitality to our country and play an essential role in our communities’ economic growth. This is borne out by the facts; there are currently more job openings in New York State than there are workers to fill them. The economic stability and well-being of immigrant communities and New York State are interlinked. Studies show that policies limiting migration result in losses to overall economy and tax revenue. We acknowledge the investments that New York leaders have already made to meet the immediate needs of arriving immigrants. Additional forward-thinking solutions that the Vera Institute of Justice supports include:

  • Enacting Long-Term, Practical Solutions for New York State
    Immediate emergency measures are essential, but they must be implemented alongside sustainable, long-term solutions, including:
    • The Access to Representation Act (A170A/S999A) would ensure that immigrants facing deportation in New York have access to legal representation, regardless of income, language, or geography. People who face deportation are not guaranteed a right to legal counsel and many who can’t afford to hire an attorney are forced to fend for themselves in court alone against a trained government lawyer. This measure will provide a legal lifeline to individuals who have recently arrived in the state as well as those who have been New Yorkers for decades, strengthening our families, communities, and economy.

    • The New York for All Act (A5686/S987) would ensure that New York’s resources are not used for federal immigration enforcement, which separates families, discourages immigrants from full participation in public life, and harms all New Yorkers. It would prevent state and local officials from colluding with federal immigration officials, funneling people into Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, and disclosing sensitive information to federal immigration authorities.

    • The Dignity Not Detention Act (A4354/S306) would prohibit New York governmental entities from entering into immigration detention contracts and from receiving any payments related to immigration detention. Anecdotal evidence already indicates an uptick in detention of newly-arriving immigrants, and this bill will proactively mitigate the destructive and unjust consequences to these communities.

  • Establishing a Federal Right to Legal Representation For People at Risk of Deportation
    New York has long been a leader in providing legal help to immigrants, and it should continue to pave the way by passing the Access to Representation Act to expand representation for all New Yorkers at risk of deportation. But ultimately, the United States needs federal action to promote fairness, family unity, and economic stability for newly arriving immigrants and long-term members of these communities. Congress should pass the Fairness to Freedom Act, sponsored by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, to ensure that no person is forced to navigate a highly complex immigration case with potentially devastating consequences without legal help.

  • Advocating for Expanded Work Authorization
    It is imperative that authorities continue to take action to enable more immigrants to obtain work authorization more quickly, and ensure that they have legal support to submit these applications when needed. The recent extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for people from Venezuela and Afghanistan, along with the extension of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) to five years, will make it possible for more people to actively participate in and contribute to their local communities and economies. All New Yorkers deserve this opportunity, and there is much more to be done.

  • Investing in Emergency Services for Stability
    Ensuring the well-being and stability of new immigrants and their integration into the economic life of cities in the U.S. requires increased investments and innovative solutions from all levels of government to support targeted services. This should encompass access to safe housing, essential health care services, legal orientations, and other essential services and resources. This crucial support allows people the chance to regain their footing and forge a path toward stability.

The immediate and long-term solutions presented here offer a clear pathway reflecting the enduring values that define New York: inclusivity, compassion, and progress. Implementing these measures will guarantee the establishment of vital services and robust infrastructure, supporting immigrants in leading secure and stable lives that enrich communities.


About the Vera Institute of Justice
The Vera Institute of Justice is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and policy experts working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone is treated with dignity. Vera’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit

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