Projects, Units & Initiatives

Immigration Law Unit – Criminal Immigration Specialists

For decades, The Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Unit has provided critical support for attorneys in our Criminal Defense Practice, advising them on the impact of criminal prosecutions on non-citizen clients. Our Criminal Immigration attorneys are experts on the intersection of criminal and immigration law. They provide in-house assistance to our Criminal Defense attorneys from immediate advice at arraignments to consultations at each step of a case. The unit also provides post-conviction relief for non-citizen clients, with a focus on those who face disproportionately harsh and unfair immigration consequences due to marijuana convictions and other low-level arrests. 

Our Criminal Immigration attorneys conduct regular trainings for CDP staff in this ever-changing area of law. Our goal is to ensure that our clients are fully advised of the collateral consequences of an arrest on their immigration status and that the best possible outcomes are achieved and that whenever possible, families remain together.

Our Impact

Alongside our Community Justice Unit, our Criminal Immigration attorneys regularly work with community organizations to educate New Yorkers about the consequences of arrests and conduct Know Your Rights trainings for non-citizens.

In The News

Soon after the election of President Trump, our Criminal Defense Practice and Criminal Immigration attorneys began witnessing a disturbing trend. Non-citizen clients were being snatched by ICE officers inside city Criminal Courts when they appeared for their court dates. The ICE arrests were random and unpredictable, meant to instill tremendous fear in our non-citizen clients. Wanting to protect our clients from this draconian and unprecedented tactic, our attorneys began to stage impromptu courthouse walk-outs whenever ICE was present in a courthouse. These protests were repeated in the hopes that the disruption would send a strong message to the courts that ICE arrests inside the sanctuary of a courthouse were unacceptable and harmful.

Thanks to the grassroots advocacy of our attorneys and by ALAA for over two years, the New York Office of Court Administration issued a directive on April 17, 2019 banning ICE officers from making arrests inside state courts without judicial warrants, making New York the first state in the nation to implement such a ban.

On June 10, 2020, a federal district court in Manhattan issued an injunction place barring such arrests, in the matter State of New York v. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Additional Resources

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