New York Members of Congress & Advocates Rally in DC, Call for Dignifying Immigration Solutions in Face of Trump, Anti-Immigrant Proposals

By Bryan Miller 

WASHINGTON, DC – New York federal lawmakers, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Grace Meng and Rep. Dan Goldman, are urging peers in Congress to support the Fairness to Freedom Act, national legislation that will “establish a federal right to legal representation for all immigrants facing deportation.” 

According to a Vera Institute of Justice statement this week, “Directly-impacted advocates and Fairness to Freedom campaign leaders…allied on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as high stakes for immigrant communities and their families continue to rise this critical election year—making the call for legal representation and protected due process rights more urgent than ever.” 

Vera said, “High stakes for immigrant communities and their families continue to rise this critical election year” which has made “the call for legal representation and protected due process rights more urgent than ever.” 

Vera Institute of Justice added, “Immigrant communities face an expanding immigrant detention system and record-level ICE detention rates. Anti-immigrant measures are being unveiled by the Biden administration and brought to a vote this week in the Senate.” 

Vera’s press release argues that “immigration continues to rank as the nation’s top issue multiple months in a row” and former President Donald Trump “threatens mass deportations if re-elected.” 

Gillibrand, who is the lead sponsor for the bill, said, “Immigrants are an integral part of New York and the nation at large, contributing to the growth and stability of communities across the country…without the fundamental right to due process, immigrants who have long called the United States home are at risk of being uprooted from their families, neighborhoods, and workplaces.” 

According to Vera’s statement, Sen. Gillibrand stated she is “proud to champion the Fairness to Freedom Act alongside Rep. Norma Torres, which would provide legal representation for people in immigration proceedings…a public defender system for people facing deportation is an achievable, dignifying solution to our outdated and complex immigration system that will help keep families united in their homes.”

Rep. Meng, also from New York, stated, “Establishing universal representation will make our immigration system more efficient and effective and will give the millions of people seeking to immigrate here a fair chance” and that “Due process is the foundation of our nation’s laws and government.” 

Meng added that “each year thousands of immigrants, particularly those facing deportation, are forced to navigate our complex immigration system without access to legal representation. Federal action is long overdue to support the needs of growing immigrant populations in areas like Queens, New York, and across the country.” 

Fellow New York Rep. Goldman said, “The right to legal counsel is foundational to our democracy and should extend to those coming here in search of the American Dream as well. No one should face life threatening consequences simply because they cannot afford legal representation.” 

Goldman added, “Yet every day new immigrants are forced to defend themselves against deportation in a language and judicial system they often don’t understand. When children are forced to represent themselves through complex immigration proceedings, we have failed to be the welcoming democracy we strive to be.” 

Nicholas Turner, Vera Institute of Justice president and director, maintained, “The U.S. is experiencing an alarming trend of anti-immigrant policymaking at the state and federal levels that criminalizes immigration, separates families, and limits the due process rights of people seeking safety and stability.” 

Turner added Vera Institute of Justice urges “Congress to improve the antiquated U.S. immigration system by expanding legal pathways to citizenship, improving immigration case processing, and investing in universal legal representation to ensure that all children, adults, and families facing immigration proceedings are treated with dignity and have full access to due process.”

Nicole Melaku, National Partnership for New Americans executive director, said, “These enforcement-only, asylum-gutting measures betray our country’s longstanding commitment to providing safe refuge and betray the realities and needs of the economy. These measures set back the long work of advocates and immigrant communities that have worked tirelessly with Congress for decades to enact humane, dignifying, and workable immigration solutions.” 

Melaku also stated, according to the Vera release, they “expect our legislators to be with us on this, as so many of them have promised—rather than embracing anti-immigrant measures and playing election year politics.”

Murad Awawdeh, who the statement says is “New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), President and CEO,” was reported to have said “the right to legal representation is needed now more than ever for our communities’ security and freedoms.” 

Awawdeh added, “Expanded detention, mass deportations, and denied due process go against everything that we know to be needed for thriving economies, communities, and families. We must ensure the health and well-being of all our communities and stakeholders, by passing this bill now.” 

According to the press release, “In the year since the Fairness to Freedom Act was introduced, across the country we have seen new investments and new universal representation programs,” noting several states, including New York, Colorado and Tennessee, “have shown that supporting immigrants by ensuring access to legal representation is a sensible, humane and effective immigration solution.”

About The Author

Bryan Miller is a fourth year political science - public service major at UC Davis. He has a desire to pursue law in the future and has a large interest in the justice system and constitutional law. In his free time Bryan likes to spend time outdoors fishing and hiking.

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