No Safe Harbor Report, 2020

The New York Immigration Coalition, in partnership with Brooklyn Law School’s Safe Harbor Clinic and the Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative, today released a new report entitled No Safe Harbor: The Landscape of Immigration Legal Services in New York (2020).

The report was authored by the New York Immigration Coalition, Brooklyn Law School, and the Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative (I-ARC) and draws on detailed interviews and surveys to ascertain the core challenges facing legal service providers and immigrant New Yorkers seeking legal assistance. The New York Immigration Coalition first released a review of legal services in 2017, but updated the report this year to highlight the significant changes in both the local funding landscape and the breadth of issues facing immigrant communities in the Trump era.

Key Findings:

  • In New York State, only 60% of legal service providers report using interpreter services (whether by phone or in-person). 40% of providers statewide continue to rely on their staff’s language skills or require non-English-speaking clients to bring in their own interpreters.
  • Immigrant New Yorkers located outside of New York City are more likely to obtain legal representation if they are connected with a community-based organization (CBO) that can help facilitate their access to legal services.
  • Over one-third of CBOs did not have at least one attorney with more than ten years of experience on staff.
  • The number of organizations providing immigration legal services in the State fell by nearly 11% (from 158 to 141) between 2017 and 2019, with the biggest drop in New York City (26%, from 121 to 89).
  • Community groups are better suited to conduct outreach and act as a bridge between communities and legal representative organizations.
  • Sixty percent of organizations received public funds through New York City and/or New York State. New York State funds spent on immigration legal services dipped slightly from FY2018 ($17.7M) to FY 2020, ($16.9M) whereas New York City funding increased substantially from FY2019 ($46.5M) to FY 2020 ($58.2M).

Report Recommendations:

  • Invest $25 million in immigration legal and related services
  • Pass the Access to Representation Act, which creates a guarantee of legal representation for immigrant New Yorkers
  • Invest in capacity building to enable organizations to make capital investments in areas surrounding language lines, technology, and physical space to allow them to grow, as well as to develop staff to best supplement lawyers with accredited representatives and legal support
  • Provide meaningful support of supervisory positions
  • Invest in critical integration and support services
  • Disburse funds and issue contracts for State and City grants in a timely and transparent manner to ensure that all providers have an equal chance to access public funds

Download the report here.