City Rallies around its Immigrants
President Obama’s immigration relief program may be on hold following a Texas judge’s temporary injunction, but the City has not missed a beat in its support for New York’s immigrants. Most recently, on April 6, Mayor de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that 70 cities and counties across the US – all members of the newly formed Cities United for Immigration Action, have joined them in filing an amicus brief arguing that the President’s program is in the best interests of the nation, and must move forward.
“Cities are where immigrants live, and cities are where the President’s executive action will be successfully implemented. Our cities are united, and we will fight for the immigration reform this nation needs and deserves – whether in the courtroom, in Congress, or in our communities,” Mayor de Blasio said in a press statement.
“NYLAG applauds the Mayor’s stance. The President’s plan is currently the only solution to the decades-long legislative deadlock in Congress over immigration reform,” said Irina Matiychenko, Director of NYLAG’s Immigration Protection Unit. “While it does not provide a pathway to full legal status, those who qualify will receive work authorization and other benefits. Parents and children will have a respite from the constant threat of separation, and hardworking immigrants will be able to find legal employment for a fair wage.”
The President’s program permits undocumented immigrants who have lived in the US for five years and are the parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to request deferred action and employment authorization through a new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. The plan also expands Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a policy introduced in 2012 that provides temporary relief to immigrants who were brought to the US as young children. The judge’s order does not affect those eligible for original DACA, or DACA renewals.
Reaching Immigrants Now
Meanwhile, New York continues its focus on reaching out to immigrants in advance of the implementation of the President’s reforms. The City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), led by Commissioner Nisha Agarwal, have made it a priority to provide immigrants with accurate information and legal and other services to help them prepare for executive action, and to warn them of the dangers of fraud.
On Sunday April 12th, the City Council and MOIA will each host large-scale legal screenings, which are expected to draw hundreds of immigrants in need of assistance. The City Council’s event, to take place in Brooklyn, is part of the “Key to the City” initiative, co-sponsored by the New York Immigration Coalition. The MOIA screening, in Manhattan, is being held in partnership with NY State’s Office for New Americans and Catholic Charities Community Services.*
NYLAG, along with other legal services and community organizations, have helped to plan and promote the events, and will be staffing them. At the clinics, with the support of pro bono attorneys and other volunteers, they will be assessing all potential avenues for status relief for immigrants. Those who do qualify for DACA or DAPA will be told how to prepare for the filing process by collecting the necessary documentation, and reminded that they are still free, if eligible, to apply under the original DACA provision. Immigrants will be encouraged to be wary of unethical and fraudulent immigration services providers, and to seek legal advice only from licensed attorneys or BIA accredited representatives.
NYLAG has extensive experience in conducting large-scale, community-based screening clinics. They were first developed in 2010 after the earthquake in Haiti, when the US granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitian nationals residing in the US. Since then the agency has conducted screening clinics in neighborhoods across the City. In the last few months alone, since President Obama announced executive action, NYLAG has staffed nine clinics, and screened over 700 immigrants. The results have been promising. Many of those screened are potentially eligible for relief under the new programs, but also have options for permanent relief that they would not have known about had they not received a legal screening.
According to Maryann Tharappel, clinic project coordinator and a staff attorney in the Immigrant Protection Unit who has been a leader in developing NYLAG’s clinic model, “The April 12th events were created out of an incredible collaboration across legal and social service providers, elected officials, City leaders and community organizations – all committed to helping immigrants prepare and know their rights. Even more important, since the injunction, these events are a way to make sure that immigrants affected by the ruling do not lose heart, and know that they have our support.”
*Update: The two April 12th clinics together provided assistance to 685 immigrants.