Over the years, both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have earmarked millions of dollars for legal help for undocumented immigrants in New York. Recently, Mayor de Blasio has announced that he no longer wants New York City to fund legal representation for non-citizens who have committed certain criminal acts, whereas Governor Cuomo’s program does not have these restrictions. The announcement has raised concern for New York’s immigrant communities and advocates who believe that non-citizens should not be deprived of due process because of past, sometimes minor, offenses.
Last month, when Mayor de Blasio added $16.4 million to New York City’s fund to defend immigrants facing deportation, he stated that the resources could not be used to provide legal services to non-citizens who have been convicted of certain criminal offenses. Mayor de Blasio referenced a list of 170 offenses that includes some serious violent crimes, such as sexual assault and murder, but also low-level, non-violent crimes, such as drug possession in the first or second degree. Under President Trump’s January executive order, legal permanent residents and visa holders who commit drug possession crimes are be subject to deportation and would be considered priorities for removal under the order. Those who commit one of the 170 offenses will be exempt from New York City’s sanctuary provisions. If a defendant has one of these convictions, the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Department of Correction will cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and will detain them on the agency’s behalf.
Advocates have praised the governor for maintaining universal representation of undocumented immigrants and oppose the mayor’s restriction of the funds. According to advocates, Mayor de Blasio’s restriction on the funds for legal representation deprives many non-citizens of a fair hearing and due process and puts them at immeasurable odds in court. Since the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee legal representation in immigration court, those who have committed crimes and cannot afford an attorney will face their civil immigration proceedings alone against trained government lawyers.
Under President Donald Trump’s immigration reform, there are serious consequences for non-citizens who have committed crimes, including bars from citizenship and deportation. If you are concerned about your legal status or the legal status of a loved one it is imperative that you consult an experienced immigration attorney who can help protect your legal rights. The New York City immigration attorneys at Bretz & Coven, LLP are knowledgeable in all aspects of immigration law, including immigration eligibility with a criminal record. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call our New York immigration law office at (212) 267-2555.