As national lawmakers fight immigration reform in Congress, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is expanding his efforts to help undocumented immigrants get legal rights. City Hall announced Monday a $7.9 million program that will help residents find free assistance to apply for work permits and citizenship, the mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs said.
De Blasio said his new ActioNNYC program could reach up to 75,000 immigrants in the first year once it launches in April. “The legal needs span up and down the spectrum,” Nisha Agarwal, the city’s commissioner for immigrant affairs, told the New York Times. “It’s better that they get legal help and that they don’t spend thousands of dollars to go to a notario who will cheat them," she added, referring to people who scam immigrants by charging them for fraudulent legal services.
President Barack Obama announced executive actions in November 2014 aimed at deferring deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children or had children who are U.S. citizens. State Republican lawmakers sued, arguing that the White House act was not constitutional because it wasn't approved by Congress, and the policy has since been blocked by a Texas appeals court. It could be decided by the Supreme Court next year.
De Blasio had already directed city officials to help immigrants get ready to apply for legal rights under the president's executive actions. He and other Democratic mayors across the nation have rallied in support of the White House's policies. In January, De Blasio launched one of the nation’s most ambitious municipal identification card programs, IDNYC, for city residents regardless of their immigration status.
“It’s a really interesting and new model," Mario Russell, the director of immigrant and refugee services for Catholic Charities Community Services in New York, told the New York Times, referring to De Blasio's latest effort. "The city is saying, here are a half-dozen lawyers, let’s deploy them in these areas and in this way.”