Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced two new measures to assist and protect immigrants targeted by ICE and the federal government’s anti-immigrant policies in their communities. Governor Cuomo’s first-in-the-nation Liberty Defense Project has selected regional providers and attorneys for a Rapid Response Program to better respond to unanticipated ICE enforcement actions, targeted raids and sweeps statewide. Additionally, Governor Cuomo’s Office for New Americans has selected 21 new Opportunity Centers across the state to deliver essential services, education and guidance to immigrants in their own neighborhoods – including the Southern Tier for the first time.
“While the federal government continues to threaten our immigrant communities, New York will not stop fighting to protect the rights of new Americans,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this new program and expanded opportunity centers, we are ensuring vulnerable immigrants who are unfairly targeted by ICE have the legal assistance and services they need to achieve their full potential in New York.”
“New York is committed to ensuring protections and services for immigrant children and families,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “The new measures included in the Liberty Defense Project will give immigrants access to legal services and ensure proper representation. While the federal government continues to attack immigrants’ rights, we embrace our diversity and rich culture that makes New York the Empire State.”
Rapid Response Program to Deliver Urgent Legal Services to Immigrants
Through a competitive bidding process, seven providers were selected to dedicate at least 15 LDP attorneys to assist immigrants in urgent, time-sensitive legal jeopardy in every region of the state. The Rapid Response Program, , builds on the network of services currently being provided by current LDP partners and establishes more urgent legal coverage for immigrants across the state, particularly in underserved communities. High-need/high-impact areas will have two dedicated attorneys. The selections, made in response to a December 2018 Request for Applications and pending Office of State Comptroller approval, are:
· New York City: Research Foundation of the City University of New York, on behalf of CUNY Citizenship Now!, providing one dedicated attorney.
· Long Island: Empire Justice Center, providing two dedicated attorneys due to increased ICE enforcement and arrests.
· Hudson Valley: Neighbors Link, providing two dedicated attorneys due to increased ICE enforcement and arrests.
· Capital Region: Prisoner’s Legal Services of New York, providing two dedicated attorneys to bolster the roster of immigration attorneys in the region and respond to an increasing number of detained asylum seekers relocated there.
· North Country: Prisoner’s Legal Services of New York, providing one dedicated attorney.
· Mohawk Valley: While no applications for this region were received during this procurement, the LDP is working with partners to ensure the region is appropriately served.
· Central New York: Frank H. Hiscock Legal Aid Society, providing two dedicated attorneys due to the increase in the number of raids on local farms.
· Finger Lakes: The Legal Aid Society of Rochester, NY, providing two dedicated attorneys to respond to the large number of arrests and detentions of immigrants in the region.
· Western New York: Journey’s End Refugee Services, providing two dedicated attorneys to respond to the large number of arrests and detentions of immigrants in the region.
· Southern Tier: Journey’s End Refugee Services, providing one dedicated attorney.
In addition to providing urgent legal coverage for immigrants, these providers will also be responsible for:
- Providing legal support and direct representation for separated/unaccompanied children and their families.
- Conducting Know Your Rights workshops/trainings in particularly hard-to-reach communities such as farms, rural areas and in a variety of languages addressing: what to do when approached by ICE; how to create a family preparedness plan; how to create a financial plan; how to contact your consulate; and what to do if you or a family member is detained.
- Providing additional non-legal support services to families of those who are in removal proceedings or who have been deported.
New ONA Opportunity Centers to Help Immigrant Communities Across New York
Last year, in response to feedback from impacted immigrant communities, advocates and service providers, Governor Cuomo’s Office for New Americans sought new and additional neighborhood-based across New York State to provide services, including legal consultation, Naturalization assistance, community workshops, civics education and more. The Opportunity Center selections, pending Office of State Comptroller approval, are:
· New York City: Mercy Center, Inc. (Bronx); Chinese-American Planning Council (Brooklyn and Manhattan); Arab American Association of NY, Inc. (Brooklyn); Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights (Manhattan); Queens Community House (Queens); Make the Road New York (Queens); and MinKwon Center for Community Action, Inc. (Queens).
· Long Island: Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) (Nassau County) and Make the Road New York (Suffolk County)
· Hudson Valley: Catholic Charities Community Services, Archdiocese of NY (Dutchess County and Orange County); Neighbors Link (Westchester County); and Make the Road New York (Westchester County)
· Capital Region: U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants – Albany Field Office (Albany County).
· North Country: While no applications for this region were received during this procurement, ONA is working with partners to ensure the region is appropriately served.
· Mohawk Valley: Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (Oneida County).
· Central New York: Catholic Charities of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, NY (Onondaga County).
· Finger Lakes: Catholic Charities Diocese of Rochester dba Catholic Family Center (Monroe County).
· Western New York: Jericho Road Ministries (Erie County).
· Southern Tier: Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester (Tompkins & Tioga Counties) and American Civic Association (Broome County).
Specifically, these new centers will provide, free-of-charge:
· Legal Consultation: Each Opportunity Center will be provided with a qualified and experienced immigration attorney to assist with the naturalization process and provide free legal consultations to clients. Each Center will hold at least 10 immigration law consultation days each year.
· Naturalization Assistance: Opportunity Centers will assist new Americans with citizenship applications, including N400, N600 and DACA applications on a rolling basis. Each Center must provide clients information on available financial resources for naturalization costs. Each Center will be expected to submit at least 100 complete applications to USCIS each year. Citizenship and DACA applications will be prepared by qualified, DOJ-accredited representatives or immigration attorneys.
· Community Workshops: Each Opportunity Center will offer eight community workshops each year, covering topics including parent engagement with schools, financial literacy, disaster preparedness, consumer protection and educational opportunities for immigrants and their children.
· Citizenship Preparation Classes: Each Opportunity Center will offer at least one class geared toward green card holders who are preparing for the naturalization test. Topics must include U.S. civics, history, government and other topics included on the exam.
· Immigration Law/Federal Immigration Policy Workshops: Each Opportunity Center will host at least four seminars covering immigration law and information on federal immigration policies. Topics may include: developing a family emergency plan; designating power of attorney; knowing your rights and responsibilities if immigration officers come to your home or place of employment; what to do if you are arrested; how to find a family member in detention; and consular services for applicable communities
· Legal Technical Assistance to Support Immigrant Service Providers
No applications for new opportunity centers were received for the North Country. Therefore, ONA is working with partners to ensure the region is appropriately served.
New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “These providers will do an outstanding job in bolstering Governor Cuomo’s efforts to help all New Yorkers thrive. We look forward to working with our partners in all parts of the state to help immigrants in their own communities.”
Assemblymember Maritza Davila, Chair, Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force said, “These new, expanded measures for immigrants in New York embody our state’s spirit of inclusiveness and community by collecting even more resources together to bring effective legal services to our fellow New Yorkers. I commend Governor Cuomo for protecting immigrants being targeted by ICE and the federal government’s anti-immigrant policies.”
Senator Luis Sepúlveda, Vice Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, said, “There are too many hardworking immigrants in New York in pursuit of the American dream that live in fear of being unfairly targeted by ICE. These new measures will help immigrants feel safe and secure in their communities and give them access to valuable legal resources that can help protect them against ICE. I thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to assisting all immigrant New Yorkers seeking to make better lives for themselves and their families.”
Assemblymember Victor M. Pichardo, Chair of the State Assembly’s Taskforce on New Americans, said, “ICE’s aggressive raids on hardworking New Yorkers are immoral. As Chairman of the Taskforce on New Americans, and as an elected official representing a large immigrant community, it is my duty to ensure that immigrants in the Empire State have the resources and support they need to fight these unfair enforcement actions. I commend Governor Cuomo for establishing these new measures that will protect our immigrant communities. I want to make it clear, ALL immigrants are welcome in New York.”
Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Board Chair of Catholic Charities Community Services, said, “Every day, Catholic Charities helps our neighbors in need and welcomes newcomers to New York – regardless of their status. We applaud Governor Cuomo for recognizing our role in providing critical support to help immigrants across the state.”
Karen Andolina Scott, Executive Director of Journey’s End Refugee Services, said, “As we continue to witness the federal government take arbitrary, hostile action against immigrants seeking a better future, we stand with Governor Cuomo to provide an essential line of defense. Our work is important for all New Yorkers, and we are proud to continue to provide legal services to immigrants facing deportation.”
Elise S. Damas, Esq., Director of Pathway to Citizenship Long Island at CARECEN, said, “CARECEN is proud to host one of Governor Cuomo’s Office for New Americans’ Opportunity Centers. We will be a beacon for Long Island immigrants seeking help and guidance, and we look forward to enhancing our services for the community.”
Carola Otero Bracco, Executive Director of Neighbors Link, said, “We are proud to continue our work in the Hudson Valley and across New York State on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters. These are individuals who contribute to New York’s cultural fabric, and we must continue to stand by them in their times of need. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his commitment to welcoming new New Yorkers to our communities.”
The enhancements to ONA and the LDP are the latest in Governor Cuomo’s commitment to helping and welcoming new Americans to New York State. Providers for and the selection to provide legal technical assistance via the Opportunity Centers are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
All contracts with entities are subject to review and approval by the Office of the State Comptroller.
About the Office for New Americans & the Liberty Defense Project
The New York State Office for New Americans, founded five years ago, is the nation’s first statutorily created immigrant services office. ONA has Opportunity Centers across the State that are hosted in community-based organizations that deliver a host of services and support, including legal services, and entrepreneurial assistance, to New York’s new American communities. These sites are the focal point for communities to embrace immigrants by providing them with the tools necessary to thrive and contribute to our state.
In 2017, Governor Cuomo launched the Liberty Defense Project – the first-in-the-nation, state-led, public-private project to assist immigrants regardless of status – in obtaining access to legal services and process. The project is administered by ONA and run in partnership with law firms, legal associations, advocacy organizations, major colleges and universities and bar associations. The LDP provides:
- Free legal consultations and screenings for immigrants throughout New York State.
- 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.
Any immigrant that needs 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 200+ languages.