Advocate

Fighting for Policies that Recognize the Dignity and Value of Every Human

At Neighbors Link, we know that the strongest communities are those where all residents have the opportunity for economic mobility and social inclusion. Unfortunately, far too often, government policies limit the ability of immigrants to fully participate in society.

Neighbors Link works to empower immigrants as they advocate for their rights and to bring together long-term and newer residents to fight for policies that recognize the dignity and value of every human.

Read on for information about current advocacy efforts. If you would like to be informed about opportunities to be involved in advocacy, email Katie Graves-Abe at kgraves-abe@neighborslink.org.

Access to Representation Act 

Unlike in criminal proceedings, where defendants are given a lawyer if they cannot afford one, immigrants do not have the right to a government paid attorney in immigration court. Those unable to afford a private attorney must find a nonprofit to help or represent themselves, which makes a huge difference. Having a lawyer represent someone in deportation proceedings makes an enormous difference. 78% of immigrants with lawyers win their cases, versus 15% who don’t have legal help. For immigrants who are detained, only 3% win their cases without a lawyer.

New York State has a chance to remedy this situation by passing a piece of legislation that would empower immigrants to protect themselves and their families. The Access to Representation Act would mandate that the state appoint a lawyer to anyone in New York who has a case before an immigration judge or who has a basis to appeal or request to reopen an old deportation order, and meets income requirements. It would also provide stable funding streams for immigration legal services, easing uncertainty on both the legal repre­sentatives and their clients.

New York for All 

Our entire community is safer when all residents, regardless of immigration status, feel safe driving to work, taking their kids to school and reporting crimes to law enforcement. Unfortunately, many members of the immigrant community often feel unsafe interacting with state and local government agencies for fear that this will lead to a devastating interaction with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Westchester County Immigrant Protection Act was an important local step in building trust between local residents and law enforcement by defining what information county law enforcement can share with federal officials. It is now critical that we bring this legislation to the state level. 

The New York for All Act prohibits local law enforcement and state agencies from enforcing federal immigration laws, funneling people into ICE custody, and sharing sensitive information with federal immigration authorities. It prohibits ICE and CBP from entering non-public areas of state and local property without a judicial warrant. It also ensures that people in custody are given notice of their rights before being interviewed by ICE, and starts the process of limiting ICE and CBP access to state information databases.

Legal Services Funding

Immigration legal services are critically important. Having access to an attorney is often the difference between a family staying together or being broken apart. Unfortunately, existing resources for affordable legal services are incredibly scarce. By fully funding immigration legal services through the Office for New Americans and the Liberty Defense Project, New York State can help promote safety and security for immigrant communities.

Coverage for All 

154,000 New Yorkers are currently uninsured because of their immigration status. Other states, including California and Illinois, have remedied this situation using state funds. New York needs to allocate funds to make immigrants eligible for affordable, quality coverage through a state-funded essential plan. 

Unemployment Bridge Program 

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are currently not eligible for unemployment insurance because of their status or the kind of work that they do. This includes undocumented workers, those who are part of the cash economy (including many domestic workers and day laborers) and many self-employed workers in low-income industries. When these workers lose jobs or income, they have nowhere to turn to support themselves or their families. A permanent fix is needed to ensure that all workers have access to a basic safety net. 

DALE Campaign

The DALE Campaign seeks to protect undocumented workers who speak out about abuse or unsafe working conditions. In a win for the campaign, on January 13th, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security announced that noncitizen workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, a violation of labor rights, can now access a streamlined and expedited deferred action request process. Deferred action protects noncitizen workers from threats of immigration-related retaliation from exploitative employers.

To find your elected officials and their contact information, click here.