By Andrea Saenz
This week, for the first time in the United States, detained immigrants who cannot afford attorneys will be provided with counsel through the New York Family Unity Project (NYIFUP). The program is a one-year pilot, funded through a grant from the forward-leaning New York City Council, which will provide representation for nearly 200 detainees at the Varick Street Immigration Court in New York City.
The program grew out of research by the New York Immigrant Representation Study, under the leadership of now-Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, demonstrating clearly that detainees without representation have virtually no chance of success in their removal cases. The NYIFUP is the result of advocacy by a coalition of organizations, led by the Center for Popular Democracy, the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Make the Road New York, the Vera Institute of Justice, and the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo School of Law.
As part of the NYIFUP advocacy team at Cardozo, seeing the pilot launch at Varick Street is incredibly exciting, and we hope to be a model across the country. There is a real opportunity for our new mayor and City Council to expand this project and keep New York the most immigrant-friendly city in America, and we hope to go statewide in the future.
At the same time, the coalition released a white paper entitled The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project: Good for Families, Good for Employers, and Good for All New Yorkers. The report shows how the lack of counsel for detained immigrants leads to unnecessary deportations that devastate families, undermine our commitment to due process, and impose huge costs on local governments and employers. The study’s findings include:
– State agencies and employers face some $13.4 million in costs relating to detention and deportation.
– New York State employers pay out an estimated $9.1 million in turnover-related costs a year when they are required to replace detained or deported workers
– Detention or deportation of a parent is linked to school dropout rates among children, limiting long-term earning
potential, decreasing tax revenues, and increasing reliance on public health insurance. This translates into $3.1 million in costs a year.
– Detentions and deportations of parents also cause significant costs to the NY State Children’s Health Insurance Program when bread-winning parents are deported.
– Finally, the state pays over half a million dollars a year to provide foster care to the children of detained or deported New Yorkers.
The report concludes that if NYFIFUP was expanded statewide, it would save $5.9 million of these costs, making it both a smart economic investment for the state and business, and a strong commitment to due process, family unity and our history as a nation of immigrants.
Andrea Saenz is a Clinical Teaching Fellow in the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.