NEW YORK (CNNMoney) – Undocumented immigrants in New York who can’t afford a lawyer and are facing deportation will soon have access to free legal counsel.
The New York governor’s office said last week that it is allocating $10 million in its fiscal 2018 budget toward creating a legal defense fund “to ensure all immigrants, regardless of residency status, have access to representation.”
Unlike U.S. citizens, undocumented immigrants don’t have the right to free legal counsel.
Called the Liberty Defense Project, the funding is part of a public-private partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford Foundation. So far, the non-profit organizations have contributed $1.5 million, making the total funds available $11.5 million.
“During these stormy times, it’s critical that all New Yorkers have access to their full rights under the law,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said when he first announced the program.
The Liberty Defense Project will work with 182 advocacy groups and legal entities to provide attorneys to immigrants.
To qualify, an immigrant’s household income must be below 200% of the federal poverty line and must not already be represented by a lawyer, said Oren Root, director of immigration and justice at the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit social justice policy group based in New York City.
The Vera Institute is set to receive $4 million — the largest slice of the funds from the state, according to the budget.
“This funding is significant in that we will now be able to represent all detained people in the State of New York,” Root said.
Previously, the legal defense services Vera arranged for immigrants were funded by the New York City Council. Last year, the organization received $650,000 through the city’s New York Immigrant Family Reunification Project.
Since 2013, all of the city’s eligible undocumented immigrants could secure a public defender through the New York Family Immigrant Reunification Project, Root said.
By OCTAVIO BLANCO for My Champlain Valley
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