Asylum Seekers Bussed Into NY, Electeds Introduce Bill To Provide Attorneys For Families Facing Deportation

As Texas, Florida, and Arizona officials bus in asylum seekers to New York City and other regions, Senator Brad Hoylman (Manhattan).

Including Assembly Member Catalina Cruz (Queens) today announced the introduction of the amended Access to Representation Act (S81B/A1961) to ensure the state is prepared to assist all New Yorkers facing deportation, whether they are people who have recently arrived in the state or immigrants who have been New Yorkers for decades.

The bill would be the first in the nation to create a state right to a lawyer for people facing deportation who cannot afford representation. 

The legislation is supported by the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), Immigrant ARC, and the Vera Institute of Justice in partnership with over 100 organizations, legal services providers, and elected officials to call on New York State to advance universal representation, and full funding for legal and social services for everyone facing deportation in the state. Universal representation has wide support in New York: More than nine out of ten New Yorkers—93 percent—support government-funded representation for immigrants facing deportation. 

Currently, individuals facing deportation are not guaranteed a right to counsel—instead, many who cannot afford to hire a lawyer are forced to fend for themselves against a trained government lawyer. Having a lawyer makes a significant difference: immigrants in detention are over 10 times more likely to prove their right to remain in the United States, and for non-detained people, 60 percent achieve a successful outcome on their case with representation, versus just 17 percent without a lawyer. Investing in legal defense will promote fairness in a system that sets immigrants up to fail, keeping more families together, more communities united and stabilizing our economy.

“For immigrants facing deportation, having an attorney on their case is not a luxury – it can be a matter of life or death. It can be the difference between someone staying in New York or being permanently separated from their family. I’m proud to introduce the amended Access to Representation Act, which will provide due process to all New Yorkers and bring some fairness to our broken immigration system. President Trump may be out of office, but we are still dealing with the aftermath of his administration’s failed policies – as well as new challenges resulting from the shameless actions of border state governors. I’m glad to be working with my colleague and co-sponsor, Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, and proud to have the support of this broad, diverse coalition as we fight together for this critical legislation,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.

“New York must have the infrastructure in place to support asylum seekers as they arrive in our state, as well as our long-term immigrant neighbors. That means providing lawyers to keep families together. As thousands of immigrants statewide face deportation without a secured right to an attorney, their ability to get a fair shot at justice greatly diminishes. If our friends, our neighbors, and our loved ones cannot afford a lawyer, they are left to fight a complex immigration system on their own. In New York, due process of law should not be an optional concept. Our new bill seeks to right this wrong by ensuring that the promises made by our Constitution are provided to everyone, not simply those who are able to afford it,” said Assemblymember Catalina Cruz.

“New York has led the way in providing support to immigrants who cannot afford legal services. We now have the opportunity to advance New York’s national leadership by promoting fairness for people at risk of deportation. As other states turn away immigrants and heartlessly treat people seeking refuge as pawns in a political fight, New York can promote fairness, freedom, and stability for immigrants, keeping the state safe and strong,” said Vera Institute of Justice Vice President of Initiatives Kica Matos. “We thank Senator Hoylman and Assembly Member Cruz for fighting to establish a right to legal services for anyone facing deportation regardless of where they are from or what they can afford. New York will continue to lead the way by passing the Access to Representation Act in 2023.”

 “Every New Yorker deserves a fair shot at justice in our courts. Yet, for far too long low-income immigrant New Yorkers have paid a steep price for their lack of ability to afford a lawyer when they are in deportation proceedings. As Texas continues to play cruel games with the lives of asylum seekers by expelling them to other states often without identification documents or other materials that would help them make their case for refuge, New York must take the lead in promoting fairness in our immigration court system. We thank Sen. Hoylman and Assembly Member Cruz for fighting to establish a right to legal services for everyone facing deportation. The Access to Representation Act will support equity and justice in our immigration court system and help keep New York families together,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.

“Having a legal representative is one of the single most important factors in determining likelihood of success in immigration proceedings. More importantly, no one should be asked to navigate such complex processes – where the outcomes often have life or death implications – without qualified, expert assistance. New York has led the way in providing legal help for immigrants. Today, as our broken immigration system continues to be manipulated for political gains at the expense of the most vulnerable among us, it is time for us to once again show New Yorkers’ welcoming spirit and our commitment to fundamental values of humanity and dignity. We are grateful for Assemblywoman Cruz and Senator Hoylman for leading this fight, “ said Camille Mackler, Executive Director of Immigrant ARC.

Background: 

Currently, many low-income New Yorkers facing deportation must navigate the judicial system alone, while facing government attorneys who are experts in the process. 

The Access to Representation Act will create a right to an attorney for any New Yorker facing deportation who cannot afford to hire one on their own. By creating a Right to Counsel, this legislation eliminates the uncertainty surrounding the State budget’s annual funding for immigrant legal services, securing New York’s ability to protect immigrants who have been New Yorkers for many decades, and new New Yorkers, who are welcomed each year and every year.

It will also protect all immigrants who are vulnerable to fraudulent schemes, as non-authorized scammers often seek to fill that gap in the market.

It will promote community safety and economic stability across New York by ensuring that more parents remain home with their children, more essential workers remain on the job, and more business owners continue to invest in and support our communities.

Photo credit: Vera Institute of Justice.

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