*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***
SEPTEMBER 11, 2018
New York, N.Y — Attorneys from Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, and Legal Aid Society – New York City’s public defender organizations providing free legal representation on immigration matters through the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) – submitted a joint letter to Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise urging him to postpone the vote on a resolution phasing out its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The letter detailed their concerns about passing the resolution, which would likely result in people being detained hundreds or thousands of miles away from their families and communities and eliminate their access to free legal counsel. Through the NYIFUP program, the three providers serve people who are detained and subject to deportation proceedings at the Varick Street immigration court as well as a small number of New York residents with hearings at the Elizabeth immigration court. These clients include the majority of people detained at Hudson County’s jail, as well as people detained in the jails in Bergen, Orange and Essex Counties. NYIFUP representation has dramatically increased the likelihood of detained people winning their cases from 4% to 48%.
The letter detailing their concerns and opposition to the plan includes the following excerpts:
“As supervising attorneys representing detained immigrants facing deportation through New York City’s pioneering New York Immigrant Family Unit Project (NYIFUP), we respectfully implore you to postpone the vote on a resolution phasing out the contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Neither we nor the people we represent were consulted on this resolution and while there are local interests involved, the consequences of passing it would extend far beyond Hudson County.”
“To be clear, we strongly support the movement to abolish ICE and believe there is no place for the jailing of asylum-seekers, longtime community members, or anyone else based on birthplace in a just society. The civil and human rights violations perpetrated by ICE against immigrants and people of color are longstanding and well-documented. To us, abolishing ICE is about a fundamental transformation of our immigration system into one that truly respects human rights and the ideals of liberty and equality. That said, ending contracts for ICE detention in jails near large immigrant communities where attorneys are provided for free – while ICE continues to make arrests in these communities – will do far more harm than good and we question whether directly impacted people were engaged in this decision. Hudson County and other local governments have local control over jail contracts with ICE, but they do not have any control over what will happen to detained people if these contracts are terminated. That is up to ICE.
People who would otherwise be detained near their families and communities would instead be moved, likely hundreds or thousands of miles away, and quite possibly to remote private prisons where neither attorneys nor vigilant community members and clergy would be able to advocate for their rights and safety. Those with open cases and scheduled hearings – people who will have suffered weeks or months of detention awaiting this opportunity to fight for their freedom and right to remain in their community – would be severed from their support networks and attorneys and their cases will be derailed.”
“Our country must fundamentally transform its immigration system to recognize the humanity of all people, including by repealing the laws that created our current mass immigration detention system. While we fight toward that end, we must proceed responsibly and do no harm – at least not without the leadership of directly impacted people making decisions for themselves.”
Read the full letter here.
The New York Family Immigrant Unity Project (NYIFUP) is the nation’s first public defender system for immigrants facing deportation—defined as those in removal proceedings before an immigration judge. Funded by the New York City Council since July 2014, the program provides a free attorney to almost all detained indigent immigrants facing deportation at Varick Street Immigration Court who are unrepresented at their first court appearances.