Public Safety & Justice

NYC Becomes First to Offer Free Legal Aid to Undocumented Immigrants

June 27, 2014

As Congress remains gridlocked by the partisan wrangling over the issue of illegal immigration, New York City this week approved two separate plans that advocates say could signal a sea change in the ways cities handle undocumented workers and their families.

On Wednesday, the New York City Council earmarked $4.9 million of the city budget to give legal assistance to foreign-born New York residents facing deportation. This makes New York the first city in the US to provide lawyers for low-income immigrants detained by federal authorities. The city will provide such aid both for undocumented immigrants and for those with legal residency.

And on Thursday, the City Council voted to create a new municipal ID program for all who live within its five boroughs, following the lead of cities such as New Haven, Conn., San Francisco, and Los Angeles – each with large immigrant populations – to give any resident the documentation needed to open a bank account, sign a lease, or even get a library card. The measure passed 43 to 3, with three abstentions.

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