Crown Heights

Hamilton demands funding for immigrant rights lawyers

Senator says IDC working to increase protections

December 1, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
State Sen. Jesse Hamilton is among the senators pushing for funding for the Vera Institute of Justice's New York Immigrant Family Unity Project. Photo courtesy of Hamilton’s office
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In the wake of the election of Donald Trump, who vowed during the campaign to deport three million undocumented immigrants with criminal records, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a series of steps New York state will take to protect law-abiding immigrants.

And now, following Cuomo’s lead, the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), which includes state Sen. Jesse Hamilton, is calling for increased funding to provide legal assistance to immigrants.

Hamilton (D-Crown Heights-Park Slope, Sunset Park) said he and fellow IDC members want to see additional funding go to the Vera Institute of Justice’s New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, a program that provides public defenders to immigrants fighting deportation in court. 

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“In proposing increased state funding for the Vera Institute of Justice’s New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), we help secure critical public defender services and uplift values that have been part of New York for generations,” Hamilton said in a statement.

IDC Chairman Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx-Westchester) recently outlined a plan to provide additional funds for the NYIFUP.

The move came after Cuomo described what steps the state will take to ensure that immigrants are not targeted by bigots.

“Last week, Governor Cuomo announced three important steps to help protect immigrant communities in New York: Creating a unit in the state police to investigate hate crimes, expanding New York state’s human rights law to protect students and establishing a legal defense fund for immigrants. I applaud Gov. Cuomo for acting proactively to assure New Yorkers their safety, their rights and their well-being is our priority. No one should have to face this challenge alone,” Hamilton stated.

Hamilton recently announced that he was joining the IDC. The IDC is a group of seven Democrats who broke away from the Senate’s Democratic conference back in 2012 to forge its own agenda.

Following Trump’s election, Cuomo announced several actions he said were designed to protect civil rights and combat hate crimes in New York.

The steps include the creation of a new state police unit to investigate hate crimes, an expansion of the state’s human rights law to protect all students and the establishment of a new emergency legal defense fund for immigrants.

Gov. Cuomo laid out his plan while speaking to the congregation at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Manhattan about the post-election climate and the recent uptick in reports of harassment and violence in the state.

“New York is, and will always be, a place of acceptance, inclusion and a bastion of hope for all people,” Cuomo said. “We will never allow fear and intolerance to tear at the fabric of who we are. New Yorkers are stronger than that, and we are better than that. With these decisive actions, we say to people of all backgrounds and beliefs: New York is your home and refuge, and we will do whatever it takes to keep you safe.” 

Cuomo directed the state police to create a new Hate Crimes Unit to investigate and offer assistance to other law enforcement agencies investigating potential hate crimes. The unit will consist of investigators from across the state trained as bias crime specialists. State police will coordinate with local district attorneys to provide support during the prosecution of hate crime cases.

The second piece of the governor’s program is an effort to push legislation to expand protections of New York state’s human rights law to all students.

Cuomo’s plan also calls for the establishment of a public/private legal defense fund to ensure that immigrants, regardless of status, have access to representation. The initiative will be administered by the state’s Office for New Americans. 

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New Yorkers who have experienced bias or discrimination can call a special toll free hotline at 888-392-3644 Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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