Coalition Statement on the Liberty Defense Project: We need public investment to succeed!

March 24th, 2017

Today, Governor Cuomo announced his Liberty Defense Project, a program which proposes to offer pro-bono legal services and other resources to immigrants regardless of their status.

New York Immigration Coalition Executive Director, Steven Choi, released the following statement:

"There looks like there’s not a single public dollar that goes to legal defense, which stands in sharp contrast to other states that are leading the way against the anti-immigrant onslaught from the federal government. It’s simply not enough to rally private law-firms and foundation support: this project will not succeed without significant public investment. The NYIC wants to work with the Governor to implement the Liberty Defense Project, but as we detailed in our report, No Safe Harbor, New York State needs to allocate at least $15 million to meet the demand for services.”

According to the NYIC's most recent report, No Safe Harbor: Challenges in Obtaining Immigration Legal Services in New York immigrants and service providers face a multitude of barriers to accessing four legal services in particular:
-defense of deportation,
-family-based petitions,
-asylum, and
-representation with regard to criminal-immigration issues.

Yet, currently only 20 percent of state funding addresses those four case types, and at a level wholly insufficient to meet the volume of need. As we move forward in a new, enforcement-centric immigration system that puts all immigrants equally at risk, these needs will only increase. To maintain its position as a leader in immigrant integration, it is imperative for New York state to rise to that challenge and empower the Liberty Defense Project to truly help immigrant New Yorkers."


The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees. The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.