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New York launches immigrant defence initiative

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"New York is a beacon of hope and opportunity for all, and immigrants have always been part of the fabric of this great state," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

[NEW YORK] New York state on Friday launched an immigrant legal defence initiative with more than US$1 million in public and private funding in response to "overwhelming" demand for help from non-profit organisations.

A statewide coalition of 182 advocacy organisation and legal entities, as well as a network of pro bono attorneys, law students and legal professionals will provide legal assistance and representation to immigrants "threatened by recent changes in immigration policies", a statement read.

The move follows actions under President Donald Trump, who has twice issue a travel ban on refugees, as well as other travelers from certain predominantly Muslim countries. Both have been suspended by courts.

"New York is a beacon of hope and opportunity for all, and immigrants have always been part of the fabric of this great state," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

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"During these stormy times, it's critical all New Yorkers have access to their full rights under the law."

The state's Office for New Americans will coordinate the legal aid for immigrants - including for deportation proceedings and applying for lawful permanent residence and work permits - "regardless of their residency status", the statement read.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford Foundation are also partnering in the project.

Under the initiative, more than 200 seasoned attorneys and paralegals will volunteer their time so "immigrants are better aware of their legal options and are provided greater access to representation," Mr Cuomo's office said.

Under the "know-your-rights" campaign, pro bono attorneys will travel across the state to reach out to immigrants.

The project, which Mr Cuomo describes as the first of its kind in the country, will "ensure this state is living up to the values embodied by the Lady in our Harbor," he said, referring to the Statue of Liberty.

The minority rights group Make the Road New York welcomed the initiative but warned that it falls short of generating the US$19.1 million experts believe is needed to provide "adequate" immigration-related legal services for all detained immigrants.

AFP

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