Community Legal Advocates of New York
Advocating for All Communities

CLA on the Issues

CLA on the Issues

Categorical Eligibility for SNAP Benefits

A rule change from the Department of Agriculture could have a devastating impact on Americans: over 3 million people will be removed from SNAP benefits (food stamps), over 500,000 children will not automatically receive free school meals and tens of thousands of families will experience food insecurity. CLA strongly opposes this rule to modify SNAP eligibility for these reasons, and we submitted a public comment through the Federal Register opposing it. Read CLA’s full comment here.

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Expansion of Expedited Removal Proceedings

The Department of Homeland Security put forth a Notice of a rule change over the summer that will expand the jurisdiction of expedited removal proceedings, as well as complicate the burden of proof necessary for a person to evade detention and/or removal (deportation) by law enforcement. CLA opposes this rule change, as it gives ICE a wider berth and more discretion in targeting and detaining immigrants all across the country. CLA submitted a public comment online through the Federal Register opposing this Notice of rule change. Read CLA’s full comment here.

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Housing and Community Development Act of 1980: Verification of Eligible Status

In early May, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a policy change that would intensify the verification process in determining eligible status for public housing benefits. In addition to being a clear attack on undocumented people, this will have a drastically negative impact on mixed immigration status families. CLA submitted a public comment online through the Federal Register opposing this proposed change. Read CLA's full comment here.

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New York State's Self Sufficiency Standard

CLA believes that New York State’s Self-Sufficiency Standard, which is a tool used to determine eligibility for various public benefits, should be updated to reflect the increasing cost of the standard of living in New York State, as well as the diversifying population that resides here. CLA sent a Memorandum of Support to New York State Senate’s Social Services Committee regarding Bill 5552, which would update the Standard. Read CLA’s entire memo of support here.

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Reauthorizing VAWA

The Violence Against Women Act--VAWA--was originally introduced as legislation in 1994. The Act expired in February of 2019 and is thus up for a re-authorization from Congress. The new Act includes a provision that closes the “boyfriend loophole:” as it currently stands, firearm provisions do not apply to dating partners who were convicted of abuse or stalking. The provision would close this loophole, ensuring that people convicted of domestic abuse don’t have access to guns. Closing the “boyfriend loophole” is very important: in the United States, a woman is shot and killed by her romantic partner every 16 hours.

The House of Representatives voted to reauthorize VAWA and close the “boyfriend” loophole on April 4. The legislation has yet to be voted on by the Senate.

CLA is proud to support the re-authorization of VAWA, including its provision to close the dangerous “boyfriend loophole.” In early April, CLA signed on to an advocacy letter in support of reauthorizing VAWA. The letter was produced by The National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, and signed by a large number of allied organizations in addition to CLA. Read the full letter here.

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Temporary Protected Status for Citizens of Venezuela

Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, has been automatically extended until January of 2020. More than 250,000 immigrants--from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan--will benefit from this extension. It’s exciting news for citizens of these four countries.

CLA advocates for TPS for citizens of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. We also support the recent proposal to expand TPS to Venezuelan nationals, a move that is being considered in high-ranking levels of the White House.

Venezuela is experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis that’s resulted in extraordinarily high levels of inflation, widespread starvation and a myriad of human rights violations--some of which were brought on by the Venezuelan government. Under federally-defined criteria from the United States, CLA believes that Venezuela, in its current state, qualifies as a country whose conditions “temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely” and a country that is “unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.” For this reason, CLA is proud to have joined more than 200 organizations in sending a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, advocating that she expand TPS to Venezuelan nationals. Read the full letter here.

Additionally, CLA hosted multiple informational workshops over the past year to educate community members about TPS and other pertinent issues. We look forward to continuing these educational events so that the community can have up-to-date information about their current and future legal statuses, now and beyond January 2020.

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ice's presence on Long Island

Over the past year, revelations of ICE on Long Island came to fruition through a series of events involving their presence and influence in public high schools and the East Meadow jail. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), who has been fronting much of the research on this phenomenon, a student’s school district can sometimes facilitate a deportation: “Some [school] districts have even made flimsy allegations of gang involvement to local police that have ensnared students in the Trump administration’s deportation dragnet.”

Throughout the month of January, the topic gained significant press due to a rebuke from  President Trump against Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, when she ordered that a trailer housing ICE agents be removed from the East Meadow jail. After a political back and forth--which involved a nonsensical proposal to move the ICE trailer to the Nassau University Medical Center--the trailer found itself back at the jail, in part thanks to CLA and other local organizations that rallied against its placement on a hospital campus. On January 24, CLA joined NYCLU and other local organizations in holding a press conference regarding the ICE trailer at the Nassau County Legislature. CLA’s Attorney-In-Charge, Keiko Cervantes-Ospina, addressed the press. She condemned the presence of an ICE trailer at the Nassau University Medical Center and responded to questions from the press afterward.

CLA’s advocacy, along with our #VacateICE campaign, helped to ensure that the ICE trailer remained away from the hospital. Moreover, we strongly believe that such a trailer should not exist in Nassau County facilities, period. It is not Nassau County’s (or New York City’s, or New York State’s) job to coordinate with ICE and carry out their bidding.

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Public Charge

In October 2018, the Trump Administration proposed a new rule that will impact a legal immigrant’s ability to renew their legal status or apply for lawful residency. The rule change will be based on a legal immigrant’s use of government-provided services like Medicaid, Section 8 Housing subsidies and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), among other things. The rule change was officially published on August 14, 2019 but has not yet taken effect. If you have questions about your status pertaining to the public charge rule change, you should contact an attorney at CLA for information. Every situation is different, and you should know of the risks and benefits of making decisions that could impact the health and wellness of your family. 

CLA unequivocally opposes this rule change, which expands the definition of public charge. The rule change targets immigrant communities and discourages people from seeking out the resources they need to lead a healthy life. In December 2018, CLA submitted an online comment to US Citizenship and Immigration Services’s (USCIS’s) public forum regarding the proposed rule change. The public forum was open for 60 days. By law, USCIS is required to review every single comment that is submitted on the forum. In total, over 260,000 comments were submitted, including CLA’s, which expressed our negative view of the proposal to change the public charge rule.

CLA has also held and participated in multiple educational workshops designed to teach the public about the proposed public charge rule. There was, and still is, much confusion surrounding the issue and its drastic implications.

To reiterate: if you have concerns about your specific situation, you should contact an attorney at CLA with any questions. This public charge rule is complex and will not apply uniformly to all people. 

CLA vehemently opposes the rule change, now and when it was first proposed. We will fight to ensure that our clients have the most current and accurate information surrounding public charge and will provide advice and counsel to those who need it.

Read more about the public charge rule change by clicking here and here.

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CLA supports increased funding of the Liberty Defense Project, a project that provides free legal consultations and screenings, representation for immigrants facing deportation, application filing for people seeking adjustment of citizenship status and more. The Liberty Defense Project funds organizations that provide these types of imperative services, so continued—and additional—funding is essential.

Per policy recommendations from the New York Immigration Coalition, CLA also advocates that:

  • The budget for the Office of New Americans is increased to $10M

  • Liberty Defense Project funding is doubled to $20M

  • $1M is invested in a Statewide ICE Response Crisis Hotline

Legal services for immigrants, especially outside of New York City, are often expensive and hard to find. Increased funding of the Liberty Defense Project will help to address this problem and make legal services more accessible to everyone—which is the primary goal of CLA.

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2020 Census

An accurate Census count is imperative to maintaining justice in legislation. Many public assistance programs, such as Medicaid, Section 8 Housing, SNAP and more rely on Census data for adequate funding. CLA rejected--and still rejects, on principle--the Trump Administration’s proposal to include a question asking one’s citizenship status on the 2020 Census. In addition, CLA supported increased funding for community-based outreach and education involving New York State’s participation in the Census. CLA is proud to be a member organization of New York Counts 2020, an initiative that leads the way in Census advocacy, education and outreach.

On June 27, the case involving the citizenship Census question was remanded to a lower court by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). SCOTUS acknowledged that the addition of a citizenship question to the Census by Commerce was not done so with legitimate justification. Because of this ruling, it is VERY UNLIKELY that there will be a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. This is a major victory for all Americans, especially New Yorkers, whose large population of immigrants threatened lower participation rates in the 2020 Census, had a citizenship question been included. 

Regardless of SCOTUS’S decision on the citizenship question, it is absolutely imperative that all New Yorkers complete the 2020 Census. Census data is rigidly protected and is not accessible by other government agencies, meaning that no one will be implicated due to their responses on the Census.

Education and outreach surrounding the 2020 Census is paramount in ensuring that everyone gets counted. CLA supported the proposal to include $40 million for Census outreach in the New York State budget, which was approved by Governor Cuomo in April.

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Coverage 4 All Campaign

CLA supports the expansion of healthcare coverage to ALL New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status. CLA believes that access to affordable healthcare should be a right—not something that’s exclusively reserved for citizens or people with financial means.

CLA’s Executive Director, Ann E. Dibble, demonstrated CLA’s support of and advocacy for the Coverage 4 All campaign by sending a letter of support to the New York State Assembly Health Committee on March 1, 2019. The letter detailed CLA’s support of expanded healthcare coverage and encouraged the Committee to resolve to expand coverage.

The Coverage 4 All campaign is headed by the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road New York. CLA is proud to collaborate with these immigration-focused nonprofits on this important issue.

To learn more about the Coverage 4 All campaign and its mission, click here.

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Driver's Licenses

CLA supports expanding driver’s license access to all New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status.

The passage of the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act—also known as Green Light NY—in June is a huge victory for all New Yorkers that CLA is so proud to stand behind. Nearly two decades of hard-fought advocacy finally led to the passage of this law, which allows everyone, regardless of their immigration status, apply for a driver’s license.

Applications for new driver’s licenses for undocumented New Yorkers are set to become available in December 2019.

Get more information about driver’s licenses here.

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