NYC Council Wants $12 Million in Tax Dollars to Give Free Lawyers to Immigrants Facing Deportation

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, right. William Alatriste/New York City Council)

Leaders of the City Council are urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to allocate upwards of $23 million from his city budget to help immigrants in danger of arrest and expulsion under President Donald Trump—including $12 million to ensure those battling deportation receive legal counsel.

The needs and fears of New York City’s half-million undocumented immigrants were a constant theme of the budget response Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, chair of the influential Committee on Finance, submitted today in answer to de Blasio’s preliminary spending plan. The pair of Democrats lashed out repeatedly at President Donald Trump for his campaign pledges of mass deportations, and his aggressive enforcement agenda, which has led to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids within the five boroughs.

“President Trump campaigned on a message that threatened the millions of immigrants who call New York City home and give our city its fundamental character,” Mark-Viverito and Ferreras-Copeland wrote. “The first salvos from the Trump Administration targeted the City’s large and diverse immigrant community, which is vital to the well-being of our populace. The city must continue to protect its most vulnerable residents when they have no guarantee of economic and personal security from the federal government.”

“Our city is, at its heart, a city of immigrants,” the Latina pols continued.

In particular, the two asked the mayor make permanent the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, a first-of-its-kind pilot program launched almost three years ago to furnish all low-income immigrants fighting deportation with a lawyer. Mark-Viverito and Ferreras-Copeland asked the mayor baseline $6.5 million for the initiative into all forthcoming budgets, plus $5.5 million just for this year.

The pair pointed to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ professed goal of expediting the deportation process, and his Department of Justice’s plans to bring on a third judge at the Varick Street Immigration Court in Lower Manhattan.

“With heavy recent intake, and considering the Trump Administration’s goals of increased detention and deportation that could possibly result in even higher docket numbers at Varick Street, there is a critical need for this program,” the speaker and Finance chair wrote.

The two also called for another $10 million to provide other legal services to immigrant communities, particularly to black migrants, as well as healthcare for those threatened with detention and deportation. Mark-Viverito and Ferreras-Copeland stressed the traumatic and disturbing effect the threat and reality of ICE actions can have on vulnerable foreign nationals.

“Since the election of President Trump, immigrant New Yorkers have experienced an overarching fear of risk of arrest, detention, deportation, and separation from their loved ones,” they wrote. “Research shows that increased raids force undocumented immigrants to minimize public exposure, while fear of deportation also affects families as parents develop anxiety and prepare their children for possible family separation.”

This sum would include $1 million for a “rapid response team” of attorneys to engage directly with ICE when it attempts to remove a New York resident.

Finally, the pair reiterated Mark-Viverito’s call for an “immigrant resource center” in every borough to provide social services and “know your rights” education for the undocumented and their families. These would cost $1.9 million and $1.4 million respectively.

These requests come as Sessions has threatened to deny Justice Department law enforcement grants to any municipality that does not comply with all ICE orders, and as Trump has sought to sever all funding to so-called “sanctuary cities.” The mayor has already laid out a $84.67 billion rough draft budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which he has pointedly refused to adjust for the possibility of lost federal funds on what he describes as moral grounds.

The Council will vote on the final spending plan in June.

NYC Council Wants $12 Million in Tax Dollars to Give Free Lawyers to Immigrants Facing Deportation