April 08 2019

State expands program for free immigrant legal services (Queens Daily Eagle)

A NEW CITIZEN TAKES THE OATH OF ALLEGIANCE AT A SPECIAL CEREMONY ON CITIZENSHIP DAY IN BROOKLYN FEDERAL COURT IN SEPTEMBER. EAGLE FILE PHOTOS BY PAUL FRANGIPANE.

The Associated Press

A 2-year-old state program that provides free legal services for immigrants will expand thanks to $10 million included in the new state budget, state leaders announced last week.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, all Democrats, said the additional funding for the Liberty Defense Project is included in the $175.5 billion budget passed on Monday.

Launched in 2017, the program includes free legal screenings for immigrants, representation at deportation proceedings and assistance with submitting documents such as applications for naturalization, employment and permanent residence.

The Liberty Defense Project also provides support services for immigrant families and rapid-response legal counsel for immigrants caught up in federal government raids and sweeps.

State officials say the program is a response to the Trump administration's crackdown on immigration.

"By expanding the programs offered through the Liberty Defense Project we can ensure New York's immigrants have the social services, health care, and urgent assistance they need as they as they seek a better life for themselves and their families," Cuomo said in a statement.

State officials say the program has provided more than 30,000 legal services over the past two years.

The announcement that the Liberty Defense Project would expand came a day after the Cuomo administration announced 19 attorneys have been selected for another program that provides free legal services to immigrants.

Cuomo said the full-time counsels will be working in conjunction with the state's Office for New Americans' Opportunity Centers located across the state.

State officials said the free services will help immigrants and their families seeking help with visas, work permits and other legal matters.

In March, Cuomo announced that the state would specifically expand aid to the Queens Community House, Make the Road New York and MinKwon Center for Community Action, Inc, which are all based in Queens, the Eagle reported.

The state will provide each organization with a “qualified and experienced immigration attorney” to provide free legal consultations, Cuomo’s office said in a statement.

"While the federal government continues to threaten our immigrant communities, New York will not stop fighting to protect the rights of new Americans," Cuomo said last month. "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."

Additional reporting by David Brand.

https://queenseagle.com/all/2019/4/8/state-expands-program-for-free-immigrant-legal-services