“Don’t Cut Our Lifeline”: Immigrant Advocates Call on Governor, Legislature to Stop Devastating Budget Cuts to Immigrant Services

March 28th, 2019

NEW YORK, NY – Today New York City announced a deal that would provide $1.6 million in funding for immigration attorneys fighting deportation cases, in order to address the increasing backlog in New York City immigration courts – the largest in the nation.

Yet, with just four days until the budget is due, New York State has failed to include any funding for the Liberty Defense Project (LDP), which provides money for legal and support services to thousands of immigrant New Yorkers facing deportation across the state. 56 organizations from across the state are calling on the Governor and State legislature to allocate funding for LDP in the state budget.

Created just two years ago by Governor Cuomo, the Liberty Defense Project has increasingly lost funding – dropping by $1.3 million last year and now down to zero dollars, despite the high demand and urgency for immigration legal assistance. Immigration cases often take years to complete and without annual funding, lawyers will be laid off, forced to walk away from their clients, and their clients possibly deported as a result.

Immigrant advocates and legal service providers are calling on Governor Cuomo and both the Assembly and Senate to restore funding for LDP in the state budget.

"It is inexplicable that as the Trump administration continues its assault on New York's communities, our State leaders are ripping away its lifeline for legal defense and protection against deportation. It is a complete sham for our leaders – Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins – to say they stand up to Trump on behalf of our immigrants – and then remove the very assistance that protects New Yorkers from Trump's deportation force. The final state budget must include funding for the Liberty Defense Project, so that every immigrant New Yorker has access to legal counsel and assistance. Words of solidarity from the State Legislature and Governor Cuomo aren't going to cut it – we need everyone to put their money where their mouths are," said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“It’s absolutely critical that the final state budget include at least $10 Million for the Liberty Defense Fund, consistent with the past three years. If we fail to include this funding, cases will be dropped, many of our undocumented neighbors will face deportation proceedings and families will be ripped apart. It needs to be a top priority," stated State Senator Julia Salazar, Chair of the Senate Women's Issues Committee.

“The Liberty Defense Project has helped more than 30,000 immigrant New Yorkers facing removal and other immigration proceedings. We are fighting to make sure that critical legal services for immigrant families are properly funded. Politics cannot get in the way of keeping families together. What is vitally important is that immigrant legal services are given the resources necessary to protect our communities,” said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz.

List of Supporting Organizations

The New York Immigration Coalition

Make the Road New York

The Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County, Inc.

Catholic Charities Tompkins/Tioga

Worker Justice Center of New York, Inc.

Hofstra Deportation Defense Clinic

CUNY School of Law, Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic

Catholic Migration Services

Emerald Isle Immigration Center

Law Office of Jose Perez

Legal Aid Society of Rochester

Her Justice

Center for Safety and Change

The Door's Legal Services Center

New York Legal Assistance Group

Social Action Ministry/Syracuse Catholic Diocese

Council on American Islamic Relations, New York

Safe Horizon Immigration Law Project

Internationals Network


Safe Passage Project

Comprehensive Development. Inc

UnLocal, Inc.

African Communities Together

Community Legal Advocates of New York Inc.

Damayan Migrant Workers Association

Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow

MinKwon Center for Community Action

The Domestic Violence Project- Urban Justice Center

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

OLA of Eastern Long Island

Centro Corazon de Maria

Arab American Association of NY

Long Beach Latino Civic Association

LatinoJustice PRLDEF

Kids in Need of Defense

Catholic Charities Community Services, Archdiocese Of New York


Sakhi for South Asian Women

Academy of Medical & Public Health Services

Tompkins County Immigrant Rights Coalition

Central American Refugee Center - New York

Empire Justice Center

Southside Community Mission Inc.

Chinese progressive association

Justice for Migrant Families of WNY

Journey's End Refugee Services

The Presbyterian Church

LSA Family Health Service, Inc.

NYU Immigrant Defense Initiative

Volunteers of Legal Service

Tompkins Co. Immigrant Rights Coalition

North Country Allies

Workers' Center of Central New York

Jordan Krick

Syracuse Immigrant and Refugee Defense Network