New York City plans to give public defenders representing illegal immigrants facing deportation an additional $1.6 million, saying illegal aliens are at a disadvantage without the help of an attorney, the New York Daily News reported.
The move to increase funding comes following a deal between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson in response to allegations of local immigration courts speeding up of deportation cases, Fox News reported.
New York City officials are calling the decision a “defense fund” against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
“This emergency funding will help us provide more attorneys to New Yorkers in need,” Johnson said, according to the Daily News. “This is crucial right now as the ICE deportation machine has ramped up efforts to interfere with the necessary work NYIFUP [New York Immigrant Family Unity Project] is doing by pushing people through the system with zero regard for due process. I will continue to fight these un-American and horrific immigration policies.”
Currently, $10 million is allocated for public attorneys who work on immigration cases for the fiscal year. However, public defenders in the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project say the additional $1.6 million “emergency funds” are needed, saying courts have been rushing deportation proceedings.
The attorneys also requested an extra $6.6 million for the next fiscal year, citing the addition of immigration courts in New York aimed at addressing a growing backlog of deportation cases, the Daily News reported.
“All respondents have a right to counsel at no expense to the government,” the Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), which operates the courts, said. “EOIR has long worked to improve access to legal information and counseling and increase the level of representation for individuals appearing before the immigration courts and Board of Immigration Appeals.”
Two new courtrooms are currently in operation and additional judges will be appointed later this spring, a spokesman for EOIR said, according to the Daily News.
Illegal immigrants facing deportation do not have the right to an attorney if they cannot afford one, unlike American citizens in a criminal court. However, many non-profits provide illegal immigrants with pro-bono attorneys. The additional funding is aiming to fill that gap and, according to the Daily News, public attorneys defending illegal immigrants in deportation proceedings are being adopted around the country.
Immigration activists and attorneys are worried New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will cut public funding for Liberty Defense Project, which provides legal services for illegal aliens facing deportation in New York state and other services such as unemployment assistance.
Deportation Could Take Years
Illegal immigrants already slated for deportation remain for years in the country before they are finally removed, government data shows. There were more than one million illegal aliens with final orders of removal in the country as of June 2, 2018, according to data obtained through a freedom of information request from the Immigration Reform Law Institute, an anti-mass immigration advocacy law firm.
While there are 11 million and perhaps many more illegal immigrants in the country, ICE only arrests and deports a small percentage of them—less than 260,000 people in the fiscal year 2018 (pdf).
This means even when a person is ordered to be deported, it would still take ICE about four years on average to actually remove him or her from the United States. In addition, there are more than 1.1 million people who have a pending final order, Conservative Review reported, meaning they’ve been slated for deportation but have likely appealed their case to the Bureau of Immigration Appeals, the appellate body of the immigration court system.
About two thirds of those removed by ICE in 2018 were either convicted criminals or had pending criminal charges against them. ICE data indicated the nearly 140,000 criminal aliens it arrested in 2018 most often faced or were convicted of less serious crimes, such as driving under the influence, though a significant portion were violent criminals. Over 50,000 had charges or convictions of assault, over 5,000 of sexual assault, and over 2,000 of homicide (pdf).
The Epoch Times reporter Petr Svab contributed to this report.