First-in-the-Nation Initiative Has Provided More Than 30,000 Legal Services to Immigrants and Communities Targeted by Devastating Federal Immigration Policies

Expansion Includes New Programs to Provide Services to Immigrant Children and Families and to Provide a Swift Response After Targeted Raids and Arbitrary Arrests by ICE

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the FY 2020 Enacted Budget includes $10 million to support the expansion of the first-in-the-nation Liberty Defense Project launched in 2017. This additional funding will allow the LDP to continue its mission in providing free legal consultations and screenings for immigrants, directing representation to immigrants in deportation proceedings and helping with filing immigration applications for naturalization, employment authorization and permanent residence.

“New York has long been a beacon of hope for immigrants from across the globe, and as Washington continues to threaten the rights of new Americans we will work harder than ever to ensure they are protected,” Governor Cuomo said. “By expanding the programs offered through the Liberty Defense Project we can ensure New York’s immigrants have the social services, healthcare, and urgent assistance they need as they as they seek a better life for themselves and their families.”

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “The Senate Majority has demonstrated that we will fight for all New Yorkers, including the newest residents of our State. Part of that effort was ensuring that funds were included in the State Budget to continue and expand the Liberty Defense Project. I commend my colleague Luis Sepulveda for his leadership on protecting the rights of our immigrant community, and I thank Speaker Heastie and Governor Cuomo for working with the Senate Majority to allocate these essential state funds.”

“Immigrants are an integral thread in the fabric of our history and our state,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “While the federal administration has continued its cruel and racist attacks on immigrants, New York has led the way by providing access to critical legal services for those trying to build a better life in our communities. The Assembly Majority will continue working to make New York State a welcoming place where people can grow and thrive, regardless of where they were born or where they are from.”

“While the federal government continues its attack on immigrants’ rights, New York is committed to ensuring protections and services for all children and families in our state,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul“The expansion of the Liberty Defense Project will give immigrants access to legal services and ensure proper representation. New York is proud of our diversity and rich culture that makes us the Empire State.”

The expansion supports the continuation of three new initiatives: Project Golden Door, the Regional Rapid Response program and the Vera Institute of Justice’s New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) upstate. Project Golden Door, named after the line inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, provides family support services including access to social service providers, Latino community-based physicians, and pro bono attorneys and immigrations experts at 12 sites across New York. The Regional Rapid Response program established dedicated attorneys in all 10 Regional Economic Development Council regions of the state to more quickly respond to unanticipated ICE enforcement actions and targeted raids and sweeps. NYIFUP will continue to provide representation to immigrants who have been detained under prior orders of removal.

Senator Luis Sepúlveda said, “This initiative is to protect our immigrants from the current rhetoric that’s coming from the Republican Party and Trump administration. By providing services such as legal consultations and representation, we are combating the injustices that affect immigrant communities. As a Latino representative, I feel a special obligation to be active on this issue, and I was proud to work with Governor Cuomo and my colleagues in the Senate to secure this funding.”

“Now more than ever, New York immigrants need legal support and protection from targeted attacks on our communities by ICE,” said Assembly Chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force Maritza Davila. “While the president continues to spew hateful and divisive anti-immigrant rhetoric, this funding sends a clear message that here in New York, we stand with immigrants and will lead the way in protecting the rights of every New Yorker.”

“While Washington continues its backwards anti-immigrant policies, New York has worked tirelessly to create a safe haven for immigrants,” said Assemblymember Victor Pichardo, chair of the Task Force on New Americans. “The funding provided in the budget for the Liberty Defense Fund ensures that we can continue to fight for New Americans living in New York, so that everyone has a chance to achieve the American Dream.”

New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, who oversees the Liberty Defense Project and the Office for New Americans, said, “The Liberty Defense Project is part of what makes New York the most welcoming state for immigrants. While the federal government continues to antagonize and demonize new Americans, we seek to help them with legal services and pathways toward full participation in American life. The Liberty Defense Project has already done great work for New Yorkers and we have more to do. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we will continue to provide much-needed services to immigrants across the state.”

To date, the LDP has provided more than 30,000 vital legal services to immigrants and communities in need – particularly those who have been targeted by federal immigration enforcement tactics, including those in Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The public-private partnership is administered by the Office for New Americans and run in partnership with law firms, legal associations, advocacy organizations, colleges, universities and bar associations across the state. The LDP provides: 

  • Free legal consultations and screenings for immigrants throughout New York.
  • Direct representation to immigrants in deportation proceedings as well as other cases.
  • Assistance with other immigration legal services, particularly for complex matters.
  • Know Your Rights trainings for immigrants and community at large.
  • One quarter of the immigrants in New York-based detention provided with deportation defense representation under the LDP have been released and reunited with their families in their communities, where they are better positioned to receive continued legal assistance to prepare their cases in the hopes of finding long-term relief.

Any immigrant in need of free legal assistance is urged to call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636. All call information is confidential. Assistance is available in over 200 languages.

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