Mayor de Blasio Opens Padilla Support Center to Provide Training for Lawyers Representing Immigrant Defendants

May 27, 2016

New center will ensure that criminal defense lawyers can provide the approximately 700,000 New Yorkers eligible to become citizens with high-quality information about the immigration consequences of criminal and family court convictions

NEW YORK–Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a new initiative to ensure immigrant New Yorkers receive high quality legal representation when facing a criminal charge. The new Padilla Support Center, funded by a $1.35 million grant from New York State and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, will connect criminal trial-level, appellate and family court lawyers to individualized, expert advice as well as ongoing training and technical assistance.

“Every New Yorker deserves a fair day in court and high quality legal representation – regardless of immigration status,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Equipping lawyers to provide immigrants with the best possible criminal defense is an important piece of ensuring that our criminal justice system is fair and immigrants continue to feel welcome in New York City.”

"New York City has long taken an innovative approach to providing advice and representation to immigrants navigating the criminal court system," said Elizabeth Glazer, director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. "The new Padilla Support Center will enhance the City's ability to support immigrant New Yorkers as they navigate our complex legal systems."

There are approximately 1.5 million immigrants in New York City who are not yet U.S. citizens, about 700,000 of whom are estimated to be eligible to apply for citizenship. Entering a guilty plea or being convicted of even a minor, non-violent offense can have significant ramifications for these New Yorkers.

The plan announced today advances the Mayor’s commitments to improve the quality of justice in New York City and ensure that City services – including education, emergency food, shelter, health care, legal services and municipal IDs – are available to every New Yorker, regardless of immigration status. Under the Supreme Court decision Padilla v. Kentucky, defense attorneys are obligated to inform defendants of the potential immigration consequences of a criminal case. The Padilla Support Center is part of a statewide network of regional immigration assistance centers announced last year by the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services to better deliver effective representation that is in constitutional compliance with the Supreme Court’s mandate in Padilla.

The Immigrant Defense Project, founded in 1997 to provide legal resources, training and support to criminal defense lawyers representing immigrants in New York criminal cases, will conduct operations for the Padilla Support Center.

New York City’s Padilla Support Center will provide key services, including:

  • Providing essential training and technical assistance. The Padilla Support Center will conduct trainings for and disseminate resource guides to all criminal defense attorneys in the City to build knowledge and awareness of the immigration consequences related to criminal and family court cases.
  • Operating a hotline for criminal defense attorneys. Staffed by lawyers with expertise in immigration law, the hotline will provide individualized and ongoing advice to the more than 2,000 appointed defense attorneys representing immigrants in criminal and family court in New York City. The hotline will help defense attorneys to understand the immigration consequences of a given criminal case.
  • Connecting individuals to immigration legal experts. The hotline will also facilitate connection to immigration lawyers who can handle non-criminal legal needs, such as residency applications or deportation proceedings. These immigration lawyers, funded by the City, are embedded in institutional defense provider offices in all five boroughs, serving nearly 6,000 immigrant New Yorkers per year.

Immigrant Defense Project attorneys are nationally recognized experts in criminal-immigration law and have years of experience providing support to criminal defense lawyers and helping public defender offices institutionalize practices that best protect their immigrant clients.

The Padilla Support Center will complement and expand the legal services already available to immigrants living in New York City, which include ActionNYC, a citywide, community-based system that provides free, high-quality immigration-related information and legal support, and NYCitizenship, a program that provides free legal help with citizenship applications at select public library branches. The Padilla Support Center expands available capacity in the City to connect immigrants with high-quality legal advice and information, with a focus on those with a pending criminal case.

“Ensuring that immigrants have access to justice is a key priority for ensuring inclusion and equity for all,” said Kavita Pawria-Sanchez, Assistant Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. “The Padilla Support Center will connect immigrant New Yorkers to quality legal help from leading national experts when the stakes can be incredibly high for them and their loved ones. This initiative will directly contribute to the stability of immigrant families and communities.”

“As the Supreme Court recognized in the Padilla decision, everyone has the right to an effective criminal defense regardless of immigration status,” said Alisa Wellek, Executive Director of IDP. “For immigrants, that means having a lawyer who can advise them on the immigration consequences of a given plea, and help them avoid those consequences when possible. The Padilla Support Center will help ensure that defenders fulfill their constitutional obligations and immigrants receive fair treatment under the law.”

"We are thrilled that the State of New York is making a large investment to ensure that publicly funded attorneys in non-immigration matters are sufficiently trained and connected to immigration legal services," said Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "The risk of devastating consequences is high when immigrants navigate civil and criminal legal systems, where the slightest misstep may put them in greater harm's way due to the complex and unforgiving nature of our immigration laws. New York City is home to three-quarters of our state's immigrant population, and we hope Mayor de Blasio’s initiative will make a big difference in the lives of our communities."

“The rights of New Yorkers need constant stewardship and those of immigrants are especially at risk of slipping through the cracks. So often the legal system itself is the front line of this fight, and working to protect those that do not see a level playing field makes a better system for all. At AAFE we see the enormous challenges that immigrants fight to overcome on a daily basis, and I applaud Mayor de Blasio for this new initiative that will help those in need of effective counsel,” said Christopher Kui, Executive Director of Asian Americans for Equality.

“We commend Mayor Bill de Blasio on this very important initiative. Lack of access to legal representation stands as one of the major obstacles in achieving justice in our communities. We look forward to working closely with the Padilla Support Center to make sure services reach day laborers and other communities we work with, which are often among the most vulnerable populations when it comes to these particular types of cases,” said Manuel Castro, Executive Director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE).

“We have seen many cases of ineffectual criminal defense jeopardize the lives and immigration status, including for those with legal permanent residency. Having access to lawyers who understand the immigration consequences of criminal laws will ensure that immigrants can fully exercise their rights. This initiative will increase access to justice, especially for the one in five New Yorkers who are not yet U.S. citizens,” said Luna Ranjit, Executive Director of Adhikaar.

“As a resident and community activist in a the Sunset Park community, which has a high immigrant population, it is crucial that people who represent immigrants be both knowledgeable and sensitive to cultural differences. Mayor de Blasio providing lawyers in the Padilla Support Center who can service immigrant families and individuals at a time when immigration is being discussed during the presidential election is extremely important because clarity of the immigration laws and fair treatment of immigrants in the legal system is much needed,” said Melissa Del Valle Ortiz, Former President of The League of Women Voters.

“Immigrants are among the most vulnerable members of our community. The Emerald Isle Immigration Center applauds the collaborative initiative to provide effective legal representation to immigrants in New York facing criminal charges and the threat of deportation based on the outcome of their case. The Padilla Support Center is an important step in achieving the Supreme Court ruling in Padilla v. Kentucky that criminal defense attorneys must advise non-citizen clients about the deportation risks of a guilty plea,” said Siobhan Dennehy, Executive Director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center.

Emerald Isle’s Chair, Brian O’Dwyer, Esq., said, “Many immigrants plead guilty to criminal charges without being properly advised of the possible adverse immigration consequences. This educational program will help provide a safety net for our newest community members.”

John Stahl, Esq., Emerald Isle’s Director of Legal Services, said, “The long term consequences of deportation may be more severe than a jail sentence. The Padilla Support Center will help support and inform defense counsel for many indigent immigrants in New York City to minimize this collateral consequence of a criminal conviction."

“What makes New York City so vibrant is the attraction it has for people from all over the world. Our city combines culture, culinary, entrepreneurship and a market that is receptive to this varied offering. Those who have come to this country to make a new life and contribute to our economy, but have yet to become a citizen, do deserve the protections of life and liberty in the same way they can have economic opportunity. The Mayor is to be commended on this Padilla Support Center as a necessary step for those who may have been unrightfully accused, or who simply need representation so their rights may be protected. That is the promise of America,” said Mark McMillan, District Manager for Queens Community Board 13.

“I congratulate the Mayor on this worthwhile project. This is not being easy on crime but merely extending the basic fundamentals of our Judiciary system to all those who come before the system,” said Leroy Gadsden, President of Jamaica Branch NAACP.

“The new Padilla Support Center provides an invaluable service to indigent criminal defendants who face immigration problems and the lawyers who represent them,” said Lynn Fahey, Attorney-in-Charge at Appellate Advocates. “Its staff is both extraordinarily knowledgeable and unfailingly helpful. New York City is fortunate to have such a dedicated team assisting the most vulnerable among us.”

“For immigrants facing criminal charges, the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction are sometimes even more important than the criminal penalty,” said Robert S. Dean, Attorney-in-Charge of the Center for Appellate Litigation. “The Padilla Support Center is a significant step in providing immigrants access to the information they need to make choices profoundly affecting the lives of themselves and their families.”

“The opening of this facility is great for individuals that have come into this country and worked for this country. They should be allowed to have use of the resources in this country,” said Michael Francis, a Community Activist.

Amy Taylor, Make the Road New York's legal director, said, "Criminal convictions can lead to tragic immigration consequences for non-citizens, including deportation. This new program will help ensure that immigrants who have contact with the criminal justice system receive sound legal advice to avoid immigration consequences and will work to ensure that immigrant families are not separated and dragged into financial instability and chaos as a result. MRNY applauds the Mayor for partnering with IDP on this initiative given IDP's strong leadership on this issue."

"As an organization who sees day in and day out the devastating consequences that result from inadequate legal counsel, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, is thrilled that Immigrant Defense Project, in partnership with the city, will be providing Padilla support to criminal defense attorneys," said Angela Fernandez, Esq. executive director, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights. "This innovative center will be critical in providing life-changing guidance about the immigration consequences of criminal convictions."

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