State Budget Increases Immigrant Legal Services Funding, but More Action Needed To Keep Families Together, Strengthen Communities, and Promote Long-Term Stability

CARE for Immigrant Families Calls for Passage of Access to Representation Act This Session to Ensure Fairness in Immigration System at Time of Unprecedented Need

New York, NY – In the newly announced state budget agreement, lawmakers have proposed $63 million for immigration legal and essential services​. The CARE for Immigrant Families coalition supports this increased investment, but is calling for passage of the Access to Representation Act (ARA) this year to ensure the right to legal representation in immigration cases is enshrined in state law.

“Gov. Hochul and state lawmakers have significantly increased immigrant legal services funding in this year's budget. While this investment ​provides a critical step toward saving lives and keeping families united, there is still much more work to be done​​. It is imperative to use a portion of these additional funds to build the long-term infrastructure that ​the Access to Representation Act​ would provide. The ARA ​guarantees in state law the right to legal representation in these complex immigration cases and ensures long-term stability for these life-saving services. It is the right thing to do, and we will redouble our efforts to ensure the bill is passed this year,” said Shayna Kessler, state advocacy manager for the Vera Institute of Justice’s Advancing Universal Representation initiative.

“This year, Governor Hochul and state lawmakers have made a $63 million investment in immigrant legal and essential services, a significant increase from previous years that speaks to the urgency of the moment. However, the proposed funding is simply not enough to meet the needs of immigrant New Yorkers who will continue to be forced to represent themselves against trained government attorneys. Gov. Hochul and our state elected leaders must pass the Access to Representation Act this legislative session and make New York the first state in the nation to establish a right to counsel in immigration court. This is a long-term legislative solution that will provide tremendous relief to overwhelmed legal service providers and ensure vulnerable New Yorkers have a fighting chance to stay with their families, in their jobs and communities,” said Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“Immigrant ARC is thankful for the increased immigration legal services funding in the proposed budget. This funding will help to address the capacity issues that have plagued immigration legal service providers throughout the state as they address the needs of both long-term and newly arrived immigrants. However, we continue to urge the Senate and Assembly to pass the Access to Representation Act to ensure that New York can build out a framework that will both identify the communities where we need to develop greater capacity among immigration legal service providers, and deliver the resources necessary to serve the immigrant families throughout the State,” said Camille Mackler, Executive Director of Immigrant ARC.


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 over 100 leading organizations, religious groups, and elected officials united to pass the Access to Representation Act. The bill (S00999/A00170) will guarantee access to legal representation for immigrants at risk of deportation in New York. Sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman 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 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

About Immigrant ARC:
Immigrant ARC (I-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 increase access to counsel and access to justice for all immigrant New Yorkers. For more information, visit

About the 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.

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