Cuomo Launches Public-Private Immigrant  Legal Defense Initiative

Cuomo Launches Public-Private Immigrant Legal Defense Initiative

Photo Courtesy of Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor

In launching the Liberty Defense Project, Gov. Cuomo said that “immigrants have always been part of the fabric of this great state.”

By Forum Staff

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday launched the nation’s first public-private immigrant legal defense initiative called the Liberty Defense Project in response to what Cuomo characterized as “the surge in demand for help that is overwhelming nonprofit organizations serving immigrants.”

The partnership will be supported by more than $1 million in funding to provide legal assistance and representation to immigrants in New York, regardless of their residency status, through a network of pro bono attorneys, law students and legal professionals.

According to the Governor’s Office, the initiative is a public-private partnership between the New York Department of State, two philanthropic organizations—the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford Foundation— and a statewide coalition of 182 advocacy organizations and legal entities. Private sector law firms, legal departments at universities, bar associations and advocacy organizations, will be coordinated by the State’s Office for New Americans to provide pro bono legal and additional resources for immigrants threatened by recent changes in immigration policies.

According to Cuomo, the LDP pledges to:

  • Provide legal assistance and representation to immigrants in New York State through a network of pro bono attorneys, other legal professionals and law students.
  • Assist immigrants in deportation proceedings.
  • Assist in completing and filing applications for lawful permanent residence (also known as a green card), or temporary status, as well as work permits.

Provide outreach and educational help to assist parents who are potentially at risk of deportation to fill appropriate forms and prepare emergency plans for the care of their children in case they are detained or deported. This will enhance the work already being done at centers run by the State Office for New Americans throughout New York.

“New York is a beacon of hope and opportunity for all, and immigrants have always been part of the fabric of this great state,” Cuomo said. “During these stormy times, it’s critical all New Yorkers have access to their full rights under the law. The first-of-its-kind Liberty Defense Project will provide legal support to protect immigrants and ensure this state is living up to the values embodied by the Lady in our Harbor.”

Cuomo also said that the initiative will rely on immigrant advocates, such as Catholic Charities, to help provide greater access to legal services for immigrants threatened by recent changes in federal immigration policies. According to the governor, these advocates will help to organize the participation of volunteer attorneys and offer other support and guidance to the Liberty Defense Project.

Additionally, in recognition of the scarcity of immigration attorneys in areas outside New York City, the LDP will also partner with Equal Justice Works to place approximately 20 new attorneys and over 100 law students in communities with limited legal resources and high immigrant populations. These lawyers will work full-time to aid immigrants in the state to access legal advice while adjusting their immigration status.

“New York’s immigrants are at the heart of our state’s rich civic and social diversity. Legal representation dramatically improves outcomes for all New Yorkers,” said NY Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “The Liberty Defense Project will ensure that immigrants in need are provided with counsel that will protect their rights. I want to thank Carnegie Corporation and Ford Foundations for their support and commitment to this vital and much-needed assistance.”


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