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City Council to decide fate of groundbreaking immigration proposals

On Thursday, the New York City Council will be called upon to consider two landmark proposals that, if passed, would drastically expand the rights and opportunities available to undocumented immigrants, and serve to further solidify the city's growing pro-immigrant reputation.

The first proposal, as we've discussed on our blog before, would be to issue municipal identification cards to all New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status. Here, the ID cards would not only act as proof of residence, but also serve to help undocumented immigrants do everything from open a bank account and secure a library card to sign a lease for an apartment.

The ID cards, expected to be rolled out by the beginning of 2015, came about only after careful negotiation with a multitude of city agencies, including the NYPD, which, in a very important turn of events, agreed that the cards could be used as an acceptable form of identification during traffic stops and other police matters.

It is worth noting that the proposal dictates that all applications for ID cards will be kept on file for two years, but that law enforcement officials cannot view them without securing a warrant beforehand.

The second proposal would call for $4.9 million of the city's proposed budget to be allocated to a first-of-its-kind public defender initiative.

Specifically, the initiative would serve as an expansion of an existing yearlong pilot project -- the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project -- and provide legal representation to indigent undocumented immigrants who are being detained by federal immigration officials and facing deportation.

According to proponents, this proposal is necessary given that unlike criminal courts, defendants in immigration matters have no constitutional right to court-appointed legal representation, meaning that unless they can afford to hire an attorney, they are at the mercy of an unfamiliar justice system.

"The city is sending a strong message to its residents that we have your back," said City Councilman Carlos Menchaca. "These are clear messages, indicators, commitments that we mean we're serious about how we take care of our immigrants and, really, all New Yorkers."

While it remains to be seen if the proposals will pass, experts indicate that the chances thus far appear very good.

Stay tuned for updates on this important story ...

If you would like to learn more about an immigration-related issue like citizenship, employment visas or family immigration, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who an answer your questions and help form a plan of action.

Source: The New York Times, "New York City Council expected to approve 2 plans aiding immigrants," Kirk Semple, June 24, 2014

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