By Gloria Pazimo
May 02, 2017
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has no plans to accept Mayor Bill de Blasio’s position on how to use a pot of funding he announced last week which would provide legal services for some of the city’s undocumented immigrants.
The speaker’s public disagreement with the mayor comes as the Council enters its second round of budget hearings this week to hash out an agreement on the city’s proposed $84.86 billion budget.
De Blasio unveiled the legal services plan last week as part of his executive budget, saying the $16 million dollar allocation would be set aside for undocumented immigrants facing deportation and other immigration proceedings as long as they have not been convicted of certain crimes.
The mayor said the city won’t pay to provide legal representation for immigrants facing deportation if they have been convicted of any of the 170 crimes the city deems as deportable offenses for which they will cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement by honoring detainers.
“If we believe as a matter of policy and law that’s appropriate, we’re not going to provide legal services to stop that [deportation],” de Blasio said during his weekly appearance on WNYC last Friday.
That distinction was news to Mark-Viverito, who has been pushing to increase funding for the program since it was first launched in 2013. The program began as a $500,000 City Council-funded pilot and has grown every year, at the urging of Mark-Viverito.
“I have been very clear, the [New York Immigrant Family Unit Project] has been running for about three years,” Mark-Viverito told POLITICO New York on Tuesday. “It’s been running well. I’m not interested in changing any of the parameters of the program, so the way it’s running now, in terms of who is served, that is what I would like to continue see happen.”
Last year the Council gave $6.5 million towards the initiative. This year the council had expected de Blasio to at least baseline the program. De Blasio surprised advocates by not just baselining the amount but increasing it to $16 million and adding a specific condition about how the funds would be used.
“I do not agree with the mayor,” Mark-Viverito said, when asked about de Blasio’s stance on not providing funds for immigrants convicted of one of the 170 crimes. “I want to keep the program, NYIFUP is our program. We set it up, we put it forward and worked with the advocates. And we were very clear about how we define the program, who is served and who has access to it. This is about due process, and so I would like the program to continue as is with no alterations.”
A City Hall spokesperson said in a statement that de Blasio “respectfully disagrees with the Speaker. We don’t believe the public should fund immigration lawyers for those who have been convicted of serious crimes that threaten the public’s safety.”
Legal service providers criticized the mayor’s conditions after he unveiled the plan last week, saying the restrictions cut against a person’s right to due process.
“To limit the program due to certain criminal convictions would deprive asylum seekers and lawful permanent residents of basic due process, be unjust and be contrary to the ideals of a sanctuary city,” Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal practice unit at Legal Aid, and Adriene Holder, attorney-in-charge of the Civil Practice at Legal Aid, said in a statement last week.
Mark-Viverito would not say if the Council is considering other possible funding streams, but said her stance on the program and who it should serve will not change.
“We are starting our conversations in the budget negotiations, our first hearing is this week, so we are going to continue with that. But that is the position that I have,” she said.
This story has been updated to reflect who the Legal Aid statement came from and to add comment from the mayor’s office.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com