NYS Budget’s Immigrant Services Funding Shortfall Jeopardizes Family Protection & Community Stability

CARE for Immigrant Families Says $150 Million Is Needed for Immigration Legal Services—Along with Passage of the Access to Representation Act—to Protect New Yorkers from Deportation, Family Separations

ALBANY – Today, lawmakers allocated $64.2 million for immigrant legal services in the Fiscal Year 2025 New York State budget.This investment falls short of the $150 million required to ensure the long-term well-being of New Yorkers facing deportation and family separation, particularly as the state has welcomed additional asylum seekers and the number of people who have been left to fight deportation alone has more than doubled. The CARE for Immigrant Families coalition is doubling down on its campaign this session for the passage of the Access to Representation Act (ARA) to ensure the right to legal representation in immigration cases is enshrined in state law.

Shayna Kessler, Associate Director for Advocacy at the Vera Institute of Justice's Advancing Universal Representation initiative, said:

“As people increasingly face the threat of deportation and family separation, $64.2 million for immigrant legal services fails to address New Yorkers’ current need for a humane response and practical solutions. Neglecting to meaningfully increase investments to protect immigrant communities is a missed opportunity to urgently fund essential services needed to support newcomers seeking safety as well as longterm New Yorkers who are rooted in our communities. This decision endangers the well-being of families and jeopardizes the state's economic stability of communities across New York. We are grateful for the leadership of Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz in support of immigration legal services investments and we look forward to working with them and their fellow lawmakers to address this missed opportunity by passing the Access to Representation Act to guarantee the right to legal counsel for all New Yorkers facing deportation.”

Murad Awawdeh, President and CEO of the New York Immigration Coalition, said:

“New York has historically been a trailblazer for the nation, but in our FY25 budget, Albany is allowing our state to fall behind and lose the opportunity to power ourselves into the future. The $64.2M allocation for immigrant legal services is simply not enough to serve the needs of immigrant New Yorkers. By only slightly increasing from FY24’s allocation, Albany not only shortchanges nearly 200,000 asylum seekers and longstanding immigrant New Yorkers, but lawmakers also impede the state’s ability to foster greater economic growth. Now, immigrant New Yorkers will have to compete for legal services which are critical for fending off deportation and keeping families united. Too many families will also be forced to make the difficult decision between paying for legal representation or feeding their families. 

“We thank our bill champions, Senator Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, for their efforts, and urge lawmakers to correct course by passing the Access to Representation Act to deliver long-term relief to our communities and the immigration court system. This critical bill would ensure no New Yorker, whether they’ve been here for 30 days or 30 years, will have to face immigration court alone.”

Camille Mackler, Executive Director of Immigrant ARC, said:

“While we are thankful for our champions, Senator Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, and our supporters for fighting hard for our immigrant communities––$64.2 million for immigration legal services allocated in the FY25 New York State Budget in no way meets the need of the moment. In fact, with current inflation trends, this is a net decrease in support that will not only prevent providers from increasing capacity to meet existing needs but puts them at risk of reducing services. Coupled with the continued attempts to defund other civil legal service supports, we are concerned by the lack of support from our government leaders at this critical juncture. New York’s lawmakers have repeatedly referred to the increase in the number of migrants seeking asylum as a ‘crisis’, but the only reason this is a ‘crisis’ is because our government is making it one. Our State lawmakers should see our longstanding immigrant communities and our new arrivals as an opportunity to strengthen our State. Continuing this endless cycle of emergency response overburdens our legal service providers and denies our immigrant New Yorkers the resources they need to successfully navigate our complex immigration system. If we want New York to flourish we must properly fund long-term immigration services, so that immigrants can obtain long-term status, work authorization, and access to resources that will include them in our cultural, civic, and economic life.”