The NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) has announced a $1.3 million expansion of ActionNYC, a program that brings legal services to immigrant communities through partnerships with hospitals and community organizations that immigrants trust, within their own neighborhoods. This community-based approach fits seamlessly with NYLAG’s own history of forging strong partnerships with the courts, elected officials, hospitals and social service agencies across the City to reach vulnerable and often isolated populations.

The woman in the picture is Cindy Sun, LegalHealth paralegal. She setting up the clinic at Gouverneur Hospital in Lower Manhattan.

Cindy Sun, NYLAG LegalHealth paralegal, sets up an ActionNYC clinic at Gouverneur Hospital in Lower Manhattan.

The expanded ActionNYC program will help to ensure that additional legal assistance is available to immigrant New Yorkers at a time when federal immigration policy directives and amplified enforcement tactics have created a climate of fear and uncertainty within immigrant communities.

The bulk of the City’s investment is in an expanded partnership between NYLAG’s LegalHealth Division and NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest public health care system in the nation. In May, three new LegalHealth screening offices opened in NYC H+H facilities in Queens, Lower Manhattan, and the Bronx. The City is also awarding fellowships to provide organizing and legal training to community-based organizations across the City.

“NYLAG is proud to expand its partnership with NYC Health + Hospitals and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to continue providing critical legal services to New York City’s immigrants,” said Beth Goldman, President & Attorney-in-Charge. “Expanded legal assistance will give even more immigrants in H+H facilities the opportunity to embark on a path to citizenship and to enroll in vital health insurance programs.”

LegalHealth has deep expertise in immigration law as well as the ability to handle a range of other legal challenges — such as the threat of eviction, other landlord/tenant disputes, and employment discrimination — through LegalHealth clinics operating in all NYC H+H hospitals. The three new offices will be staffed by a multi-lingual, culturally sensitive legal team, under the leadership of Supervising Attorney Sarah Nolan.

LegalHealth has partnered with NYC H+H for over 15 years. Last year, the division provided legal assistance within H+H facilities to over 1,200 immigrants with chronic and serious healthcare needs, helping them obtain immigration status, acquire health insurance and receive the medical care they need.

In recent months, staff has seen a dramatic increase in calls from healthcare partners concerned about their immigrant patients, and from patients themselves who have shown deep reluctance to sign up for Medicaid or other potentially life-saving healthcare programs for which they are qualified, for fear that this will be used against them. Even immigrants who have insurance have expressed concerns about receiving care to address chronic and serious conditions such as cancer and kidney disease.

“The expansion of LegalHealth’s immigration services could not be coming at a more critical time. We could have a humanitarian and public health crisis in the making if chronically and critically ill immigrants wait to seek medical treatment for serious health conditions until later stages, when they are more difficult to treat – and more costly for taxpayers,” said Randye Retkin, Director of LegalHealth. “Thanks to the vision and commitment of the Mayor’s office, MOIA, NYC H+H, and countless caregivers and advocates across the City we are taking action – action that will help to ensure that New York’s immigrants get the medical care they need, are kept safe from harm, and are treated with the dignity and compassion they deserve.”