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Projects, Units & Initiatives

Immigration Law Unit – NYIFUP

The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) is the nation’s first universal representation program for detained immigrants facing deportation. Through NYIFUP, The Legal Aid Society and our partners in this initiative, Brooklyn Defender Services and The Bronx Defenders, provide high quality, comprehensive representation to New Yorkers in immigration detention who are unable to afford an attorney. We represent individuals on the detained docket at the Varick Street courthouse, as well as on the non-detained docket at 26 Federal Plaza as we successfully advocate for our clients to be released from detention.

Launched with the support of the New York City Council in 2013, NYIFUP was created after studies showed that detained immigrants in New York rarely secured counsel, with the result that unrepresented individuals lost their deportation cases 97% of the time. Without representation, immigrants are more likely to be wrongfully deported in spite of having strong claims to remain in the United States. The New York City Council funded NYIFUP to bridge this service gap and ensure that every immigrant in detention had the opportunity to fight their case and stay together with their families. By the end of the first full year of NYIFUP, more than 95% of non-citizens whose cases began on the detained docket were represented, the majority of which were represented by NYIFUP attorneys. The success of NYIFUP has since resulted in the creation of similar right-to-counsel models across the country.

Our Impact

As one example of LAS’s achievements under NYIFUP, we recently represented David, who came to the United States from the Ivory Coast when he was three years old. He is now married to a U.S. citizen and his mother is also a U.S. citizen. David was arrested in February 2018 immediately following an appearance in criminal court for an incident with which he was being charged on the basis of his denied application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). After David was detained, removal proceedings were commenced against him, alleging that he was removable from the U.S. under the Immigration and Nationality Act as an alien present in the U.S. without being admitted or paroled.

LAS stepped in to help David challenge his deportation case by filing a motion to terminate proceedings. During his case, David learned about the his father’s political involvement in their home country and the circumstances surrounding his death. His father had been a spy against the political party currently in power, giving them reason to seek revenge against David if he were to return to the Ivory Coast. Based on this new finding, LAS deemed David eligible for asylum, withholding of removal, and withholding under the convention against torture (CAT).

David’s case was prolonged due to detention staff impeding his appearance at multiple criminal court dates, and both the Immigration Judge and the Department of Homeland Security attempted to use his open and pending charges against him to prove he was a danger to society. To put an end to his protracted, unmerited detention, LAS filed a habeas petition on David’s behalf. After an arduous fight, David was released from detention and granted cancellation of removal, allowing him to remain in the U.S. with his family.

*All client names and certain other personally identifying details have been altered to protect clients’ confidentiality.

In The News

Opinion: Facing the Injustice of Immigration Court

Speaker Johnson and Council Member Menchaca Announce a $1.6 Million Emergency Allocation to Fund the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project

Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) reports on the impact of NYIFUP on case outcomes