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

Access to Representation Act 

Unlike in the criminal legal system, immigrants do not have a right to a government-paid attorney in immigration court. As a result, immigrants who cannot afford a lawyer or find a nonprofit organization to help must represent themselves in immigration proceedings. These proceedings are often complicated and difficult, even for the most well-educated layperson and this is compounded for people who may have limited English language. The consequences of losing a case are devastating, including detention in dangerous facilities, permanent family separation and people being returned to unsafe situations. As of September 2023, nearly 145,000 people in New York were fighting their cases in immigration court without a lawyer.

Representation alone can significantly increase the chances of winning a case. Studies have shown that immigrants with representation are up to 10 times more likely to obtain relief from deportation than those without, and that detained immigrants with representation are 3.5 times more likely to be granted bond, enabling their release from detention.

We need to pass the Access to Representation Act (S999A/A170A) to ensure the right to counsel for all immigrants facing deportation in New York. This Act would mandate that New York State appoint a lawyer for anyone who cannot afford one and who is at risk of deportation.

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 Immigration 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.

We need to pass the New York for All Act (S987/A5686) to broadly prohibit state and local officers from enforcing federal immigration laws, funneling people into ICE custody, and sharing sensitive information with federal immigration authorities. The Act also prohibits ICE and Customs and Border Protection (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 begins the process of limiting ICE and CBP access to state information databases.

Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP)

There is a critical lack of affordable, stable, long-term housing in New York. Currently, there are more than 90,000 New Yorkers without a home and more than 150,000 households at risk of eviction. Housing vouchers are an important tool to combat homelessness, but many New Yorkers are currently not eligible for local or federal rental assistance programs due to their immigration status, lack of income or prior felony convictions.

The HAVP will combat the homelessness crisis and yield significant savings to the state in getting people out of shelters and reducing indirect costs, such as increased health care costs and social services. Vouchers provide stability, which in turn enables people to find work and get settled. The return on investment is significant and could result in millions of dollars in savings for New York State in the long run.

We need to include $250 million in the budget for the NYS Housing Access Voucher Program (S568B/A4021A) to create a flexible, statewide Section 8-like voucher to be used by people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Language Access

Many immigrant New Yorkers are unable to access critical state services due to language barriers. Under current law, state agencies must provide for the translation of vital documents in the 12 most commonly spoken non-English languages and provide interpretation services in any language with respect to the provision of agency services or benefits. Despite this, interpretation and translation services remain inconsistent at the county level, particularly at the Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Education.

We need to pass the Language Access Expansion Act (S3381A- A7235) to expand access to language services to regional areas by directing county agencies to provide interpretation and translation services, including local languages to the statewide language list, and requiring county agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Education to provide in-person interpretation.

We also need to commit $10 million to expand language access and build New York’s diverse and multilingual workforce by creating a learning language justice cooperative.

Legal Services Funding

New York State has been a national leader in supporting immigration legal services. Over the past year, many new arrivals have come to New York and these individuals need legal services to navigate the immigration system, apply for asylum, Temporary Protected Status, obtain work authorization and build
new lives. Investing in these services is a win-win, allowing families more opportunities to support themselves and increasing the labor force and tax base in the state.

We need to invest in $150 million in immigration services, including $62 million for deportation defense, $65 million to recruit and train legal teams and $23
million to fund and connect immigrants with comprehensive support programs.

NY Working Families Tax Credit

he high cost of living is currently a struggle for many families in New York. The costs of housing, groceries, child care and other basic living needs are simply too high for many families. By making some changes to our tax code, we can give economically burdened workers and families cash to pay for what they need. This tax credit would improve the lives of nearly every New York family with children, regardless of their immigration status.

We need to pass the Working Families Tax Credit (S277B/A4022B) to make our tax code better for all families, regardless of immigration status. This is an expanded, refundable tax credit that combines the Empire State Child Credit (ESCC), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the dependent exemption (DE) into one bigger, more effective credit.

DALE (Desde Abajo Labor Enforcement) Campaign

The DALE (Desde Abajo Labor Enforcement) Campaign seeks to protect undocumented workers who speak out about abuse or unsafe working conditions. In January 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 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. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration has not promoted this policy and many immigrant workers are unaware that the policy even exists. In addition, some workers who have received protection are at risk of losing it without renewals from DHS.

We need President Biden and the Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security to defend and amplify this policy publicly and to support workplace protections for all workers, regardless of immigration status.

Also DHS is considering a renewal policy for DALE protections. Until that happens, all workers with these protections need to receive renewals. A straightforward and streamlined renewal process is needed.

Unemployment Bridge Program 

Unemployment insurance is an essential labor right. However, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are currently not eligible for unemployment insurance because of their immigration 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), formerly incarcerated workers 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.

We need to pass the Unemployment Bridge Program (S3192/A4821) to provide for thousands of freelancers, self-employed workers, formerly incarcerated workers and those who are not eligible for unemployment insurance because of their immigration status. This program will give workers access to the support they need to provide for themselves and their families, especially when they face sudden job loss.

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