New York mayor criticized for proposed limits on legal aid to immigrants

Mike Segar—X90033
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio greets a resident during a dedication ceremony for "Lunchbox"

NEW YORK — New York City public defenders
on Thursday criticized a proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio to
deny free legal counsel to immigrants in deportation hearings if
they had been convicted of serious crimes in the past, saying
the plan would deny them due process.In his proposed annual budget, De Blasio allocated $16.4
million to legal services for immigrant New Yorkers, citing
concern about U.S. President Donald Trump’s crackdown on
immigrants living in the country illegally.Lawyers, local lawmakers and civil rights activists welcomed
the funding proposal, which sharply increases legal aid for
immigrants. But they gathered on the steps of City Hall to
criticize a provision they said would unfairly deprive some
people of the right to due process under the law.De Blasio’s proposal would deny city-funded lawyers to
immigrants previously convicted of one of 170 crimes that the
city considers serious or violent.Jennifer Friedman, who runs the immigration practice at
Bronx Defenders, said the mayor’s plan would create a “two-tier
system that treats people different based on their criminal
history.”The funding be in addition to the New York Immigrant Family
Unity Project (NYIFUP), which has been funded by the City
Council since 2013 and provides free lawyers to immigrants
facing deportation hearings at the federal immigration court.In the United States, the right to a lawyer does not extend
to federal immigration hearings which are civil, not criminal,
proceedings.The plan contradicted de Blasio’s description of New York as
a “sanctuary city” for immigrants, the public defenders said.Seth Stein, a City Hall spokesman, wrote in an email that
“the public should not be expected to foot the bill” for
immigrants convicted of dangerous crimes. “The vast majority of
immigrants have not been convicted of violent crimes,” he wrote.More than 2,000 immigrants have received free lawyers under
the council-funded program, which provides free lawyers
regardless of an immigrant’s criminal record, in the four years
since it began, Legal Aid said.In New York City, immigrants without lawyers managed to
overturn a removal order in court only 3 percent of the time,
while those with lawyers were able to remain in the country 30
percent of the time, Legal Aid said.REUTERS