Comes as Trump Administration creates obstacles for immigrants, including efforts to nearly double the citizenship application fee
New York, NY— City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Committee on Immigration Chair Carlos Menchaca today announced the Council has designated almost $28.4 million in the fiscal year 2021 budget to help immigrants in New York. The funding comes as the Trump administration continues efforts to hurt immigrants, including attempting to raise the fee to apply for citizenship from $640 to $1,160. The new fee was set to go into effect today, Oct. 2, but was blocked by a federal judge.
The Council funding includes $3.25 million for the successful program, CUNY Citizenship Now!, which provides free legal services to assist New Yorkers and their families as they navigate the application process to become U.S. citizens. The Council funds do not directly help defray the cost of the fee but can help immigrants apply for waivers for the fee and avoid other legal costs.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration finalized the higher fees this summer, saying it had become more expensive to process applications because they were vetting more rigorously. But on September 29, days before the fee was set to go into effect, a federal judge in California stopped the agency from imposing the higher fee at the request of immigrant advocates. The agency may appeal.
“From ICE raids to increased fees to apply for citizenship, President Trump has continued to heartlessly create hurdles for immigrants in our country, even during the pandemic when they were being disproportionately impacted by the virus. That’s why it’s more important than ever that New York City protect immigrants and do everything we can to help them get the services they need and deserve to succeed in our city and country,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
The Council funds also include $16.6 million for the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), the nation’s first public defender system to assist detained immigrant facing deportation proceedings. This public defender system provides free legal representation to eligible detained immigrants facing deportation. NYIFUP providers, the Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services and the Legal Aid Society, ensure detained immigrants have access to legal counsel and due process. The Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services and the Legal Aid Society have been representing immigrants facing deportation since 2014.
In addition, the City Council designated almost $4 million to fund legal representation services for unaccompanied minors separated from their families and who are facing immigration proceedings. Navigating the New York Immigration courts is complicated, and this program ensures unaccompanied minors appearing on the juvenile and surge dockets have legal representation. Also, this initiative provides services to Adults with Children to make sure entire families have proper access to education, health and mental health services.
Other initiatives include:
Immigrant Health Initiative: The City Council designated $2 million to support programs focusing on decreasing health disparities among foreign-born New Yorkers. Programming improve access to health care and address cultural and language barriers. Under this initiative, mental health services for vulnerable New Yorkers will also be available.
Immigrant Opportunities Initiative: Programs help recent immigrants with citizenship or permanent residency applications, as well as other related legal services. For this initiative, the Council designated $2.6 million in this year’s budget.
“At a time when many immigrant families need assistance because they are disproportionately experiencing economic hardship and health risks from the COVID-19 pandemic, I am proud that New York City is committed to funding critical services our immigrant neighbors need. Heightened fear about the public charge rule and ICE raids warrant a robust response by the city to keep our communities informed and protected. Even if the federal government has abandoned its obligation to look out for New York City and its immigrant tradition, our city will remain resilient,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration.
“The Council is providing millions of dollars in funding to immigrant New Yorkers at a time when the need for legal services is greatest. The Trump administration is working to further dismantle our immigration system and to imperil immigrants across the nation. The programs these dollars fund will help these families remain in the United States, their home, despite the machinations of a hostile federal administration. I am pleased to work alongside Speaker Johnson and my colleagues on this important effort that will protect our constituents,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of the Committee on Finance Daniel Dromm.
“We are living in a time in which the President of the United States is actively attempting to divide us by targeting and disenfranchising our immigrant communities. Despite the rhetoric and action from the White House, New York City has continued to show support for our immigrant New Yorkers by ensuring funding in this year’s budget for free legal services, citizenship assistance, and legal representation for minors separated from their families that are facing immigration proceedings. In the City Council we remain committed to fighting against xenophobia and in ensuring services and protections are in place for all that reside in our city,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Chair of Subcommittee on Capital Budget.
“CUNY Citizenship Now! applauds Speaker Johnson and Council Member Menchaca’s initiative to increase funding for legal services for immigrant New Yorkers. Getting U.S. citizenship and other immigration benefits is getting harder than ever. All immigrant New Yorkers, no matter their income, need and deserve high quality, free legal assistance. This initiative is an important step forward in meeting that goal,” said Allan Wernick, Director of CUNY Citizenship Now!
“Amid a global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted our noncitizen clients and all undocumented New Yorkers, the City Council’s commitment to providing critical legal services funding for immigrants detained by ICE and facing deportation will fortify NYIFUP’s ability to deliver quality legal representation to those detained in the New York City area. We thank Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Carlos Menchaca, and others for this crucial funding,” said NYIFUP providers, The Legal Aid Society, Bronx Defenders, and Brooklyn Defender Services.