NY State Budget Proposal Offers Immigrant Services Funding, But Greater Investment Is Needed To Protect Families & Ensure Community Stability

CARE for Immigrant Families Says $150 Million for Immigration Legal Services and Passage of the Access to Representation Act are Crucial to Protecting Immigrant New Yorkers in Urgent Need

January 16, 2023
Media Contact: Zameena Mejia, zmejia@vera.org

New York – In New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s FY 2025 Executive Budget proposal, she included $44.2 million for immigration legal and social services. This is a much needed investment, but one which still falls far short of the resources required to ensure the long-term well-being of immigrant New Yorkers​. The CARE for Immigrant Families coalition calls for the governor to support family unity, economic prosperity, and community stability with an investment of $150 million in immigration legal services and the passage of the Access to Representation Act (ARA) to ensure the right to legal representation in immigration cases is enshrined in state law.

Shayna Kessler, state advocacy manager for the Vera Institute of Justice’s Advancing Universal Representation initiative, said:
“We commend Governor Hochul for recognizing the urgency of supporting immigrant communities and making essential investments in immigration legal services in her Executive Budget proposal. However, the allocated $44.2 million must be considered as only a starting point and should be earmarked specifically for sustainable immigration legal services for asylum seekers and longtime immigrant New Yorkers. $150 million is necessary to ensure all people who are facing deportation get legal representation. We look forward to working closely with the governor and legislative leaders to secure a more robust investment in legal services and pass the Access to Representation Act.”

Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said:
“Today, Governor Hochul acknowledged that the unprecedented humanitarian situation in New York requires continued support from the state. Her $44.2 million investment in asylum and immigrant legal services falls short of what is needed to fully support immigrant families and boost legal service provider capacity to meet the needs of all immigrant New Yorkers. This historic moment requires a historic intervention—one that meets today’s needs while creating the infrastructure to meet tomorrow’s demands. Lawmakers in Albany must deliver a $150 million investment in legal services, just 0.006% of the state budget, to make a dent in the backlog of 200,000 pending cases and give immigrant families a fighting chance to remain with their families, stabilize communities and support our economy now and into the future. We look forward to working with Governor Hochul and our legislative leaders to increase investments in legal services and pass the Access to Representation Act this session to ensure the health and stability of New York’s workforce and immigrant families into the future.”

Camille Mackler, executive director of Immigrant ARC, said:
“We are glad to see Governor Hochul is attempting to respond to this crisis of representation and supporting our immigrant communities by allocating $44.2 million in her Executive Budget for legal services. But as the number of immigrants facing deportation in our immigration courts continues to grow, the delays in accessing work authorization and long-term status hurts New York’s ability to access the numerous economic, cultural, and civic benefits of immigration. In addition, funding that has not kept up with inflation and job market trends makes it hard for existing legal services to meet the ever-growing need. To meet this need and ensure that our immigrant communities get the legal help and resources to survive in New York, we call on the Governor to include $150 million in funding for the implementation of the Access to Representation Act (ARA) in her proposed budget, and to continue to work closely with the non-profit and legal services sectors that have been on the frontline of this response for many years so that New York can be a leader in free community-based legal services.”

Correction: A previous version of this press release stated that $88 million was proposed for “asylum and legal services” following Governor Hochul’s budget address the morning of January 16, 2024. The updated version of this press release reflects the text of the Fiscal Year 2025 Executive Budget Aid to Localities Bill (S8303/A8803) and the $44.2M budget line therein for immigration legal and social services administered by the Office of New Americans.


About the Campaign for Access, Representation, and Equity (CARE) for Immigrant Families: The Vera Institute of Justice, the New York Immigration Coalition, and Immigrant ARC lead CARE for Immigrant Families, a coalition of more than 100 leading organizations, religious groups, and elected officials united to pass the Access to Representation Act. The bill (S999A/A170A) will guarantee access to legal representation for immigrants at risk of deportation in New York. Sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, the legislation would be the first in the nation to create a statewide right to legal representation for people facing deportation who cannot afford it, whether they have recently arrived in the state or have been New Yorkers for decades.

About 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 vera.org.

About Immigrant ARC: Immigrant ARC is a collaborative of over 80 organizations and professional associations providing legal services to New York’s immigrant communities throughout the State. Born out of the legal effort at JFK Airport during the Muslim Travel Ban in 2017, our mission is clear: to mobilize New York State’s legal service providers by facilitating communication and information sharing to better support our immigrant communities; to organize and respond to issues as they arise by coordinating resources and fostering best practices among providers; and to resist and challenge anti-immigrant policies by shining a light on injustices and confronting inequalities faced by our communities in the legal system. For more information, visit www.immigrantarc.org.

About New York Immigration Coalition: The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is an umbrella policy & advocacy organization that represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York. The NYIC serves one of the largest and most diverse newcomer populations in the United States. The multi-racial and multi-sector NYIC membership base includes grassroots and nonprofit community organizations, religious and academic institutions, labor unions, as well as legal and socioeconomic justice organizations. The NYIC not only establishes a forum for immigrant groups to voice their concerns, but also provides a platform for collective action to drive positive social change. Since its founding in 1987, the NYIC has evolved into a powerful voice of advocacy by spearheading innovative policies, promoting and protecting the rights of immigrant communities, improving newcomer access to services, developing leadership and capacity, expanding civic participation, and mobilizing member groups to respond to the fluctuating needs of immigrant communities.

Related Content