Saturday, May 13, 2017

NY Gov. Cuomo's Immigration Fund Will Defend Those NYC Mayor's Doesn't

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have both earmarked millions of dollars for Legal Help to Immigrant New Yorkers facing Deportation. But the Mayor no longer wants the City to Fund Representation for those with certain Criminal Histories, while the Governor's program has no such Restrictions.

De Blasio said last month when adding $16.4 million to a City Fund to Defend Immigrants facing Deportation that it cannot be spent on those who have been Convicted of certain Crimes. He referred to 170 Offenses that exclude Immigrants from "Sanctuary City" Protection from Federal Immigration Authorities.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito pushed for the Expansion of the City's New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, which provides the Legal Services to Detained Immigrants. She opposed the Mayor's stance to Limit Recipients, as did Advocates.

Cardozo School of Law Professor Peter Markowitz, an Immigration Law Expert who chaired the Study that led to the formation of the Project, praised the Governor for maintaining Universal Representation. "I think Gov. Cuomo clearly understands the fundamental principle that everyone deserves a full and fair hearing, and for detained immigrants that just can't happen without an attorney," he said. "And it's time for the mayor to recognize that we don't deprive people of due process in this country because of mistakes they may have made in the past."

The list of Crimes includes serious Violent felonies such as Sexual Abuse and Murder, but also some Nonviolent Offenses including Drug Possession in the First or Second Degree. Legal Permanent Residents and Visa Holders can face Deportation for Drug Possession and under a January Executive Order would be considered Priority Deportations for the Trump Administration.

The City expects its $31 million total Investment in Immigrant Legal Defense to provide Lawyers for 15,000 people in Fiscal year 2018.

A City Hall spokesman said the Mayor "has always been consistent—if you have been convicted of one of 170 crimes deemed serious or violent by City Council legislation, the public should not be expected to foot the bill for your representation in civil immigration proceedings."

But Markowitz rejected that logic. "In fact, there is absolutely nothing inconsistent about a city policy that cooperates in apprehension of people with certain convictions but also ensures them a fair hearing and due process," the Law Professor said.

The Mayoral spokesman suggested that other criteria could be used to determine which Immigrants the City represents, but said that details were "still in flux." He said Indigent Defense providers sometimes take into account a Case's likelihood of success, but that it remains "in flux" what factors the City might consider.

The Family Unity Project did not include such Restrictions precisely because of the difficulty Detained Immigrants face in obtaining Counsel and a Fair Hearing, according to the Law Professor.

"There is no other area of American law where we lock people up and force them to litigate for their liberty against trained government lawyers without the aid of counsel, and in New York City we wouldn't let any immigrants be subject to that type of unfair treatment," Markowitz said.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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