New York City is taking steps to ensure that all residents are given a fair day in court, despite their immigration status.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to announce on Friday the opening of the Padilla Support Center, which will provide services for criminal trial-level, appellate, and family court lawyers representing immigrant clients.
Through the center — which is located at 40 West 39th St. — attorneys will receive expert advice on how to help defendants facing any sort of criminal charge, which ranges from minor, non-violent offenses to felony crimes as well.
According to the city there are currently about 1.5 million immigrants across the five boroughs who are not American citizens. Out of this number, a total of 700,000 are eligible to apply for citizenship – however entering a guilty plea or being convicted can impact that process.
“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,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Under the Supreme Court decision Padilla v. Kentucky, defense attorneys are required to inform their clients of the potential immigration consequences of a particular criminal case.
Through partnering with the nonprofit Immigrant Defense Project (IDP), the city will provide legal resources, training and technical assistance to help raise awareness of the consequences immigrants face when it comes to criminal and family court cases.
“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, IDP executive director. “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 new center will also operate a hotline for criminal defense attorneys and offer a connection to immigration lawyers — funded by the city — who handle non-criminal legal needs such as residency applications or deportation proceedings.
The Padilla Support Center is part of a network across the state of regional immigration assistance centers announced last year by the State Office of Indigent Legal Services to deliver effective representation that is in constitutional agreement.
“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. “This initiative will directly contribute to the stability of immigrant families and communities.”