Vera Institute of Justice Announces Extension of New York State’s First-In-Country Immigrant Deportation Defense Services

With new Senate leadership, Vera to seek expansion of deportation defense services for 1,000 non-detained immigrants

NEW YORK, NY – The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) announces that, in the face of ever harsher immigration enforcement, the New York State Office of New Americans is preparing to renew Vera’s contract to provide deportation defense to more than 1,100 detained immigrants facing deportation before the four immigration courts in Upstate New York. Vera’s New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) is part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Liberty Defense Project.

Since July of 2017, New York State has been the first and only state in the nation to provide representation to all unrepresented immigrants who are detained, facing deportation proceedings, and who cannot afford a lawyer. Vera applauds Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature for their leadership and unwavering support for keeping immigrant families together.

With new leadership in the State Senate, the time is ripe for New York to take the next step in protecting immigrants from the increasingly draconian federal enforcement efforts that are tearing families apart and making our communities unsafe. Nearly 19,000 immigrants in the state who are non-detained are facing deportation without the assistance of counsel. Without a lawyer, their chances of establishing a right to remain in the country are poor.

With mounting federal threats towards immigrants, the need for state protection is more important than ever and, as a result, we need to redouble efforts to provide counsel to every immigrant in the state facing deportation. As the next step in New York’s leadership in protecting immigrants who are most vulnerable, Vera will be seeking $5.45 million in the state FY 2020 budget to provide representation to 1,000 non-detained New Yorkers unable to afford counsel whose deportation cases are pending in Buffalo and New York City.

The new funding being sought will supplement the $4.55 million necessary to continue NYIFUP’s representation of all unrepresented detained immigrants Upstate.

“Immigrant communities are part of the fabric of our country, and we embrace them in New York. We do so proudly, especially in the face of draconian federal policies”, said Nick Turner, President of the Vera Institute of Justice. “Last year, New York State became the first in the nation to provide lawyers for all immigrants detained and facing deportation. We are grateful that this critical program will continue and hope that, with the more progressive legislature, it will expand to include non-detained immigrants. Not only does such public funding deliver on our country’s promise of fairness and due process, it keeps families together, maintains trust within our communities, and increases public safety.”

Emile (a pseudonym) provides a good example of how NYIFUP protects immigrant New Yorkers from being torn from their families and out of our communities:

Emile, a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) from the time he was a small child, was a full-time student at Buffalo State College and also working full-time as a restaurant manager to support his wife (who was expecting their first child). In his final semester of college, he was offered a job as a financial advisor with a large financial firm in Western New York. After he accepted the offer, the employer ran a background check which led to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) discovering that he had an eight-year-old misdemeanor conviction.

ICE arrested and placed Emile into deportation proceedings. Almost immediately, a lawyer at the Batavia immigration court in Upstate New York began representing Emile and convinced the immigration judge to grant a bond that his family could pay. Emile was reunited with his wife that very same day. Two days later, he was able to walk proudly across the stage during his college graduation, and, later, to witness the birth of his first child. Through the representation he received, Emile subsequently won his case and was granted permission to remain in the country in lawful status.

Vera subcontracts with three experienced immigration legal service organizations to provide the NYIFUP representation: The Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, located in Buffalo and Batavia; Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York, located in Albany and Buffalo; and the New York Legal Assistance Group, located in New York City.

About the Vera Institute of Justice:

The Vera Institute of Justice is a justice reform change agent. Vera produces ideas, analysis, and research that inspire change in the systems people rely upon for safety and justice, and works in close partnership with government and civic leaders to implement it. Vera is currently pursuing core priorities of ending the misuse of jails, transforming conditions of confinement, and ensuring that justice systems more effectively serve America’s increasingly diverse communities.