177 Livingston Street 7th Floor Brooklyn, NY 11201 (718) 254-0700 info@bds.org



January 13, 2021



Valerie Ibarra – San Francisco Public Defender’s Office – (628)249-7946 – Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org

Lindsey Hortenstine – New Orleans Public Defender’s Office – (404) 520-3087 – LHoretnstine@opdla.org

Bob McGovern, Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services, rmcgovern@publiccounsel.net

Daniel Ball, Brooklyn Defender Services, dball@bds.org


Public Defenders Nationwide Announce Plan for Immigration Justice; Provide Ten-Point Plan to Biden Administration

Public Defenders Urge Federal Government to Take Bold Steps to Reverse and Repair Damage of the Outgoing Administration

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the Public Defenders’ Coalition for Immigrant Justice, a nationwide coalition of public defender offices, released a 10-point plan for addressing the injustices of the criminal legal system and its pipeline to deportation. The plan urges the Biden administration and new Democratic majority in Congress to act swiftly and decisively for immigration justice to undo the unjust, harmful and destructive tactics of the outgoing administration.

Public defenders are direct witnesses to the devastation that unjust state and federal laws cause our clients, their families, and their communities. The draconian policies of the last four years exposed the cruelty of the immigration enforcement machine, leading to a sharp rebuke at the polls, and public disenchantment with mass deportation. The Biden Administration has an opportunity to take a fresh approach to these important issues with immediate and bold action on behalf of our immigrant community members.

The Ten-Point Immigration Program for the Biden Administration recommends the immediate halt to deportations for a year, the reversal of inhumane Trump-era policies, and the establishment of due process protections in the immigration courts. The plan implores the Biden Administration to guarantee legal representation for people in removal proceedings, to end the jail-to-I.C.E. pipeline, and to restore pathways to lawful immigration status. The plan urges an end to immigrant detention, a sharp reduction in funding to ICE and the U.S. Border Patrol, and an increased investment in our communities.

The Public Defenders’ Coalition for Immigration Justice consists of 39 offices across the country who represent immigrants in criminal and/or immigration proceedings — including the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) and public defense offices from Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas.

Mano Raju, Public Defender of San Francisco

“We have lived four chaotic years of inhumane and antidemocratic immigration policies that have criminalized immigrants, wreaked havoc on families, and betrayed the very principles of inclusivity and tolerance that must guide our nation. The time is now to make change. As a first order of business, the Biden Administration must immediately end the jail to ICE pipeline, guarantee legal representation for all, and end the inhumane practice of detaining immigrants, which has no demonstrable effect on public safety, and has endangered the lives of those in custody.”

Derwyn Bunton, Chief Defender for Orleans Parish and Chair of the National Association for Public Defense

“Representation remains one of the most fundamental principles in our legal system. As public defenders, we know all too well the cruelty and injustice Black and brown people and communities of color receive in the name of justice. The increased criminalization of immigration the last four years has not only been misguided, it has furthered the harm caused by a mass incarceration system disproportionately focused on Black, brown, and poor communities. The time for change is now.”

Wendy Wayne, Director of Immigration Impact Unit, Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services

“As public defenders who represent immigrant clients, we have witnessed firsthand how the “War on Drugs” and decades of over-policing of communities of color, coupled with immigration laws and enforcement policies that disproportionately target immigrants with criminal histories, have resulted in unjust deportations, separation of families and untold damage to our communities. We urge the Biden administration to think beyond “good” or “bad” immigrants and adopt policies which recognize that all individuals deserve fair treatment, due process, and the opportunity for rehabilitation and meaningful participation in our society.”

Andrea Sàenz, Attorney-in-Charge of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) at Brooklyn Defender Services

“Our platform calls for universal representation of immigrants facing deportation, because when the stakes are often literally life, death, or permanent family separation, no one should be deported simply because they couldn’t afford an attorney. We need to change, shrink, and defund the deportation system and reinvest in our communities. ICE enforcement, detention and other cruel immigration policies tear apart families, and we urge the Biden administration and the new Democratic majority congress to listen to our neighbors’ voices.”

Edwin Tineo, former client of Brooklyn Defender Services’ NYIFUP, Fellow with the New Sanctuary Coalition

“This immigration system has done so much harm to so many people living in this country, including myself. With the new president, we need to make sure that no one goes through what I went through. Not one more person should be forced to suffer in immigration detention for months and years just because of where they were born. ICE puts fear into our community by terrorizing our hard-working immigrant neighbors and locking people away and deporting them away from their families. This agency should no longer exist. Instead, the Biden administration should keep our families and communities together by allowing people to live here legally with equal rights.”


Link to the Public Defenders’ Coalition Ten-Point Immigration Program which includes all signatories.

Link to the recording of the press conference held on January 13, 2021.



January 8, 2020



Alejandra Lopez, The Legal Aid Society, AILopez@legal-aid.org, 917-294-9348

Daniel Ball Brooklyn Defender Services, dball@bds.org 

Ryan Karerat, The Bronx Defenders, rkarerat@bronxdefenders.org




NYIFUP Statement on Egregious Treatment of Immigrants on Hunger Strike in ICE Detention 

Attorneys Demand Transparency from Jail Officials and Release of All Immigrants in ICE Custody

(New York, NY) – The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, and The Bronx Defenders – New York City’s defender organizations providing free legal representation to detained immigrants through the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) today released the below statement in response to mounting reports that ICE and jail officials have retaliated against incarcerated people participating in a hunger strike at Hudson County Jail. 

At least three ICE detainees have been placed in solitary confinement and denied water and other basic necessities for over 24 hours, forced to sleep in cold temperatures without blankets, and had all their personal belongings confiscated without explanation. NYIFUP attorneys report that they have been unable to reach their clients and that their appointments were cancelled with no prior notice. Additionally, it is reported that some 50 incarcerated immigrants are being transferred to another facility, possibly in an effort to curtail the strike. 

According to one detainee, “The treatment we are receiving here is inhumane. We are being treated worse than rats. I am suffering. No one should have to suffer this treatment.” 

NYIFUP released the following statement:

“This egregious treatment of our clients in ICE detention is absolutely unacceptable and marks a violent and inhumane form of retaliation by jail officials. Our clients have the right to protest the poor and life-threatening conditions in which they are being held, which range from inadequate medical care, poor sanitation, broken phone and video equipment that prevents communication with families and attorneys, to widespread solitary confinement. The ongoing hunger strikes are yet another urgent call to action by detained people taking enormous personal risks to demand justice and safety. The daily accounts we hear from the people we serve — current and former participants in the strike — are horrific, appalling, and an indictment of ICE and jail staff’s deliberate disregard for human life, and we are united with them in their fight.  

With COVID surging again in New York, New Jersey, and across the country, releasing all people from immigration detention has never been more urgent. We call on ICE to respect detained individuals’ right to protest, to not retaliate against them, and to instead protect public health and human rights by releasing people immediately.”

BACKGROUND: 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 the Varick Street Immigration Court in New York City.

There is currently a COVID-19 outbreak in the Hudson County jail, which officials believe can be traced to a staff person. 

Public health experts have called for decarceration as a life-saving tool in the fight against COVID-19.

Immigration detention facilities have relied on widespread solitary confinement amid this pandemic, which only exacerbates the harm and spread of the virus.



January 6, 2021


Contact: Daniel Ball, dball@bds.org






(BROOKLYN, NY) – Jackie Gosdigian, Senior Policy Counsel of Brooklyn Defender Services released the following statement in response to Governor Cuomo’s announcement of a plan to legalize marijuana in 2021 executive budget:

“With today’s announcement, Governor Cuomo has recognized that now is the time for New York to legalize marijuana. However, it is imperative that marijuana is not simply legalized but legalized the right way. That means passing a progessive legalization bill that is rooted in racial and economic justice, and focuses not only on increasing revenue and jobs, but also on giving back to the communities that have long suffered the impacts of marijuana prohibition and racially biased enforcement. The harms of prohibition persist even with decriminalization and underscore the need for legalization that promotes marijuana justice. Law enforcement continues to use marijuana as a pretext to stop and harass people of color and the family regulation system continues to use marijuana to separate Black and Latinx children from their families and hold them in foster care longer. To undo past harms and create a more equitable New York, Governor Cuomo and state legislators must center communities who have borne the brunt of the criminalization of marijuana in its legalization effort.”

BACKGROUND: Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) is a public defender organization serving tens of thousands of Brooklyn residents each year since 1996. Our mission is to provide high-quality and client-centered criminal, family, and immigration legal representation, as well as civil legal services, social work support and advocacy for people who cannot afford an attorney. 

 Brooklyn Defender Services is a member of Start SMART NY– Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade coalition – the campaign dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition in New York. The campaign believes that it is time to stop the ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition and to create a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in racial and economic justice.