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For immediate release: December 20, 2018
Contact: Press Office
Phone: 518-402-3130

Expansion of Liberty Defense Project to Provide Enhanced Immigration Legal Services

Rapid Response Program Will Build a Statewide Network of Attorneys to Quickly Provide Emergency Legal Services to Immigrants Targeted by ICE Raids and Arrests

Project Golden Door to Provide Comprehensive Health Care, Social Services, Legal Services and Other Needs for Immigrant Families and Children in Partnership with SOMOS Community Care, Children's Village and Community-Based Organizations

Today, the Governor announced an expansion of the first-in-the-nation Liberty Defense Project to provide enhanced legal services to immigrants targeted by ICE and the federal government's anti-immigrant policies. These enhancements build on the network of services currently being provided by current LDP partners and create more uniform legal coverage for immigrants across the state, particularly in under-served communities. The enhanced LDP services include Project Golden Door, which will provide crucial services to immigrant children and families in New York, and a Regional Rapid Response program to quickly respond with effective legal services on the ground, including in response to targeted raids and arbitrary arrests by ICE.

"While the federal government wages war on immigrant families seeking the American Dream, New York is standing by our commitment to protect people from all backgrounds and embrace our diversity," the Governor said. "These expanded services will help immigrants who are unfairly targeted by ICE get the legal assistance they need and provide health care services to undocumented children and families who have been neglected by the federal government."

"While the federal government threatens immigrants' rights, New York is committed to ensuring protections and services for immigrant children and families in our state," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "The expansion of the Liberty Defense Project will give immigrants access to legal services and ensure proper representation. New York is proud of our diversity and rich culture that makes us the Empire State."

Project Golden Door

Named after the iconic phrase inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, Project Golden Door will provide comprehensive family support services at 12 sites across New York, combining the critical work of local social service agencies, the expertise and cultural competency of Latino community-based physicians and the expertise of pro bono attorneys and immigration experts at various New York firms.

New York is home to 53,000 undocumented immigrants under the age of 16, many of whom arrived at the Southern Border from Central America since 2014. Many of these children have since resettled with family networks or sponsors in the State, particularly in New York City, Westchester and Long Island. These immigrant youths and their families encounter exclusion from schools and other public services, and social and economic isolation due to language barriers or lack of literacy. The Trump Administration's policy of family separation has resulted in even more children being discharged to families or sponsors in New York. Families and sponsors require significant support to address the trauma created by the federal administration's actions in tearing families apart.

Project Golden Door also includes a partnership with SOMOS Community Care, a nonprofit network of more than 2,500 community-based physicians across New York, to provide necessary health care services for youth who have immigrated to the State and need medical services. SOMOS' integrated approach ensures the undocumented, unaccompanied, and/or separated children and their respective family caregivers receive the health care they need.

Specifically, the SOMOS network providers have a full range of health-care professionals and resources needed to cover the children and their caregivers' needs, including Primary Care Physicians, Specialists, Social Workers, Nurses, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies and X-ray facilities, among others. SOMOS will offer health-care interventions, which will include screening examinations to determine physical and behavioral health needs. Special attention will be given to the behavioral health component, especially trauma-related symptoms/consequences. Children will be referred to the pertinent specialists as needed, and a Community Health Worker will be assigned to escort the patient if necessary.

Overall, Project Golden Door will help impacted children and families reach their full potential in New York through an innovative service delivery model that includes:

  • Individual counseling sessions with social workers.
  • Bilingual support groups across the State run by social workers for families caring for unaccompanied and/or undocumented immigrant children focusing on concrete skills and directing families to local and state level resources to improve their day-to-day lives.
  • Assistance with educational rights and navigation of the public school system, to which undocumented children have the right to attend full time if they meet age and residency requirements, in addition to connections to educational and food programs.
  • Access to language services, information about local laws and partnerships with the Human Trafficking Taskforce and New York State Police to provide education about human trafficking.
  • Equipping children and families with free immigration attorneys via the LDP.
  • Addressing the needs for children within homes, such as medical and mental health intervention and translation assistance.
  • Trauma-informed care and overall knowledge on how to access the health care system.
LDP Rapid Response

To better respond to unanticipated ICE enforcement actions, targeted raids and sweeps statewide, the LDP Rapid Response Program will:

Establish dedicated LDP attorneys in all ten Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) regions of the state to provide immediate legal assistance in direct response to the increase in ICE raids/arrests across the state. Specific regions identified as high-need/high-impact areas will have at least two dedicated attorneys:

  • Finger Lakes and Western New York to respond to the large number of arrests and detentions of immigrants in the regions.
  • Central New York and the Mohawk Valley due to the increase in the number of raids on local farms.
  • Hudson Valley and Long Island due to increased ICE enforcement and arrests.
  • Capital Region to bolster the roster of immigration attorneys in the region and respond to an increasing number of detained asylum seekers relocated there.

Provide legal support and direct representation for separated/unaccompanied children and their families.

Conduct ongoing Know Your Rights workshops/trainings in particularly hard-to-reach communities such as farms, rural areas, and in a variety of languages addressing:

  • What to do when approached by ICE<.
  • How to create a family preparedness plan.
  • How to create a financial plan.
  • How to contact your consulate.
  • What to do if you or a family member is detained.

Provide additional non-legal support services to families of those who are in removal proceedings or who have been deported.

The LDP expansion complements the recently announce evolution of the Office for New Americans to provide additional services to immigrants across the State.

To date, the LDP has provided more than 25,000 vital legal services to immigrants and communities in need - particularly those who have been targeted by federal immigration enforcement tactics, including those in Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The public-private partnership is administered by the Office for New Americans and run in partnership with law firms, legal associations, advocacy organizations, colleges, universities and bar associations across the state. The LDP provides:

  • Free legal consultations and screenings for immigrants throughout New York.
  • Direct representation to immigrants in deportation proceedings as well as other cases.
  • Assistance with other immigration legal services, particularly for complex matters.
  • Know Your Rights trainings for immigrants and community at large.

One quarter of the immigrants in New York-based detention provided with deportation defense representation under the LDP have been released and reunited with their families in their communities, where they are better positioned to receive continued legal assistance to prepare their cases in the hopes of finding long-term relief.

Any immigrant that needs free legal assistance is urged to call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636. All call information is confidential. Assistance is available in over 200 languages.

New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, "Our state and our nation thrives because of our immigrant heritage. The assault on immigrants by the federal government has left thousands of families torn apart with little to no resources. With Project Golden Door and the Liberty Defense Project, New York State will continue to provide essential services and legal assistance to those seeking the American Dream."

Dr. Ramon Tallaj, Chairman of the Board of SOMOS Community Care, said, "As New Yorkers, it is our responsibility to provide the best care possible for children who are newly settled in our communities after experiencing extraordinarily significant trauma. SOMOS Community Care is honored to provide culturally competent primary and specialty care to every child who needs it, regardless of their immigration status. There are seen and unseen crises in our community."

Dr. Jeremy Kohomban, President & CEO of The Children's Village, said, "Project Golden Door builds upon a pilot program between The Children's Village, CARECEN and Neighbors Link to help recently arrived immigrant children and their families. This program makes real differences in immigrants' lives. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners in both non-profit sectors and state government to help immigrants in need."

Both the LDP and Project Golden Door are initiatives under the Office for New Americans (ONA). Founded five years ago, ONA is the nation's first statutorily created immigrant services office. ONA has Opportunity Centers across the State that are hosted in community-based organizations that deliver a host of services and support to New York's new American communities. These sites are the focal point for communities to embrace immigrants by providing them with the tools necessary to thrive and contribute to our state.