Illegal Aliens in NYC Will Get Municipal IDs, Free Legal Representation

By Penny Starr | June 27, 2014 | 10:59 AM EDT

(AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - "Every New Yorker deserves an official identification that allows them to prove who they are and access core services," New York Mayor Bill DiBlasio said on Thursday. And that includes illegal aliens.

DiBlasio thanked the City Council for quickly enacting what he called "critical legislation" on Thursday. The vote was 43-3.

New York City also plans to use taxpayer money to keep illegal alien families together. The city is the first jurisdiction in the nation to provide public legal defenders at no charge to illegal aliens who are facing deportation.

"It’s shocking to me that the city of New York would want to spend millions of scarce taxpayer dollars to provide free lawyers to illegal aliens, especially when you consider that the only people selected for deportation nowadays are convicted criminals and egregious immigration scofflaws," Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, told CNSNews.com.

"People in other kinds of civil court proceedings, like bankruptcy or foreclosure or eviction, do not receive such taxpayer-funded representation, and they should be a higher priority if the city is going to embark on such an expensive project."

Vaighn said having more lawyers involved will bog down an already dysfunctional immigration system -- "and allow more illegal immigrants to game our generous system to prolong their stay here.

"And we can be sure that the Obama administration considers the New York City project to be a pilot for eventually doing the same thing at the federal level, at an astronomical cost," she added.

'More than just a card'

"The municipal ID is more than just a card -– it provides New Yorkers who are currently living in the shadows with dignity and peace of mind. My administration is fully ready to develop this plan and to swiftly implement a secure and accessible Municipal ID Card program, ” DiBlasio said.

The new ID program for all illegal aliens who live within New York's five boroughs -- an estimated 500,000 of them -- will allow them to open a bank account, sign a lease and get a library card. (And vote? some are asking.)

The card will include, at a minimum, the cardholder’s photo, name, date of birth, address, and an expiration date. "Applicants will be able to elect to include his or her self-designated gender," the City Council said.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that on Wednesday, June 25, the New York City Council allocated $4.9 million of its budget for the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), which launched as a pilot program in 2013 with $500,000 of taxpayer money.

“NYIFUP will now provide 100% coverage to eligible immigrants in the New York Immigration Court and will pilot an expansion of the project to cover New York City residents detained and facing deportation in the immigration court in Newark, N.J," the Center for Popular Democracy said in a press release.

"In total, well over 1,000 immigrants will receive representation, and hundreds of New York City families will not be torn apart by wrongful deportations simply because they cannot afford a lawyer.”

"The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project will ensure access to justice for thousands of immigrant families,” said Andrew Friedman, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy.

“The City Council has stepped up to chart an innovative path forward for justice, even in the face of the continued federal failure to fix a badly broken and inhumane immigration system."

The New York Times reported last year that the organizations behind the project are the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo Law School, the Center for Popular Democracy, the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, the Vera Institute of Justice and Make the Road New York.

"There are few more helpless situations that immigrant community members face than when a loved one is in detention and facing deportation,” Cesar Palomeque, leader of Make the Road New York's Immigration Project in Queens said.

“New York City's investment in the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project will not only help those who receive free legal representation in decisions that will profoundly affect their lives, but it will also send a clear message that the city values and protects all families,” Palomeque added.

“Locking people up and threatening to permanently separate them from their families without any legal assistance whatsoever, is un-American,” Professor Peter Markowitz, director of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, was quoted as saying in a press release.