Nothing New: Gov Cuomo Fails to Commit Funding for Immigrant Legal Services in Budget

March 14th, 2019

Governor Cuomo announces old funding, excludes immigrant legal services in 2019 budget

NEW YORK, NY - Today Governor Andrew Cuomo announced old funding for immigrant legal services, while continuing to exclude new funding in his 2019 Executive Budget to sufficiently provide legal assistance to immigrant New Yorkers statewide.

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

"It's been nearly three months since Governor Cuomo stood at Ellis Island for his third inauguration and proclaimed with soaring rhetoric that New York would protect immigrants against the continued attacks by the Trump administration. But since that time, we have seen little movement on that front. The Governor's announcement today of a plan to give immigrants access to legal services and ensure proper representation is actually funding included in last year’s budget. In fact, he didn't include any funding for legal services in his budget this year. Moreover, he has yet to sign the long-awaited DREAM Act that the Legislature passed in January. He didn't include any funding in his budget proposal to make sure everyone is counted in the 2020 Census, while the Senate and Assembly both put a robust $40 million investment in their budgets. While the Governor says he supports granting access to driver's licenses for all immigrants, he has not offered a single public word in favor of it or taken any action that he could do on his own. And according to reporting in the Gothamist, he has been actively making the case to the Long Island delegation that driver’s license legislation is bad politics post-Amazon. Governor, you often like to say action means more than words so prove it."


The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) together with the Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative (I-ARC) released a 2018 update on the groundbreaking report  No Safe Harbor: Challenges in Obtaining Immigration Legal Services in New York.

No Safe Harbor is the only comprehensive study of the political, geographic, and systemic issues that prevent immigrant New Yorkers from protecting their legal rights in the current climate. The report is based on a statewide survey of 34 legal service providers and the communities they serve.

Findings include:

  • New York providers benefit from $65.2 million in funding (city and state), one of the highest public investments in immigration legal services, but lack transparency in how funds are allocated.

  • Rigid contract requirements create obstacles for providers and prevent clients from accessing the services they need.

  • 79% of state funding covered citizenship services;

  • The top three case types are: Defense of Removal, representation before ICE, and complex case representation.

  • Immigrants in large portions of New York state have no access to legal services, even from private providers. Of the 158 immigration legal service providers in New York, 121 (75%) are in New York City; many upstate New York regions have 0-2 providers.