Zoe Levine Presented Testimony at City Council on Funding NYIFUP and Immigration Services

Testimony Before the New York City Council’s Committee on Immigration Regarding Council Budget

March 20, 2019

Good afternoon, my name is Zoe Levine and I am the Legal Director of the Immigration Practice at The Bronx Defenders. I would like to thank the New York City Council for its consistent and generous support of immigration legal services, specifically Immigration Chair Menchaca and Finance Chair Dromm.

The Council is well aware of the remarkable success of our legal services programs.  However, in light of escalating challenges and needs in the Bronx community, this testimony will outline additional funding requirements to support our services. New York City has prided itself on being a sanctuary to immigrants from around the world. Part of this commitment has involved the provision of robust legal services to keep families together and communities united. Our programs have done just that, and have become the example looked to by cities across the country. This commitment, however, has also made New York a target for the Trump administration and its enforcement against immigrants and attacks on their fundamental rights. The Administration has identified and shown us that another way to harm immigrants is to undermine the programs and people who serve them. Therefore, to keep our City’s legacy alive and maintain our commitment, there must be an increase in investment in the programs that allow us to fight back.

The Bronx Defenders pioneered the model of immigration services embedded in a public defender office over fifteen years ago. Our robust immigration practice is today comprised of over forty attorneys, social workers, advocates and administrators. We provide deportation defense in both detained and non-detained court settings. We work closely with non-citizen clients and their advocates throughout the pendency of their cases in both Criminal and Family Court to avoid or mitigate negative immigration consequences, and provide affirmative immigration services.

Our Immigration Practice is made up of three related but distinct programs: NYIFUP, Padilla Representation, and Affirmative Representation.  

  • We are asking the City Council for $500,000 in additional funding in FY19 to handle the increase in intake.
  • We are asking the City Council to fund NYIFUP at $16.6 million to handle the increase in anticipated annual intake.
  • We are asking the City to fund Padilla attorneys in our Criminal and Family Defense contracts at a ratio of 1:10
  • We are asking the City to allocate $300,000 to fund 4 full time attorneys to provide affirmative representation for our Criminal and Family Defense clients.
  • We are asking the City Council for $225,000 to support impact litigation focused on protecting Immigrant New Yorkers.

Read the full testimony here