New Report Details New Yorkers’ Experiences with Publicly Funded Immigration Lawyers

Vera Institute of Justice offers firsthand accounts from people represented by NYIFUP attorneys who have fought or continue to fight their cases in New York immigration courts.

May 27, 2022

Media contact: Zameena Mejia,

Editor’s Note: Vera State Advocacy Manager Shayna Kessler is available for interviews about the contents of the following report.

May 31, 2022 – The Vera Institute of Justice released a new report last week on the impact of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP). NYIFUP is the first and largest public defender program in the country for people in detention facing deportation. The new report comes out as the national movement supporting publicly funded legal defense for immigrants is gaining momentum and just weeks after more than 100 endorsers from across the U.S. join the Fairness to Freedom Campaign for universal representation.

The report, available in its entirety here, offers firsthand accounts from people represented by NYIFUP attorneys who were detained and fought, or are continuing to fight, their cases in New York immigration courts. Vera interviewed nine people to learn about their experiences working with their immigration defense teams as well as the challenges they faced. Three main themes emerged from these conversations:

  • Impacted people feel hope and the chance for freedom and success thanks to publicly funded immigration attorneys.
  • Caring legal teams help the people they represent by identifying ways to support them beyond their immigration cases. These types of support include connections to social, employment, and mental health services, help with getting in touch with one’s family, assistance with accessing health care and treatment, and provision of essential items and other types of assistance upon release from detention.
  • People continue to confront systemic barriers in an inhumane and unfair system, such as antiquated technology in immigration detention that hinders communication between clients and their legal teams, and contracting COVID-19 as a result of the government detaining people in unsafe, crowded conditions.

About the Vera Institute of Justice
The Vera Institute of Justice is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and activists working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone is treated with dignity. Vera’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit