New York is So Broke It Has Stopped Paying for Lawyers for Illegal Aliens

If you live in New York and you have a problem with the IRS, good luck. If the IRS claims you owe them money you can either pay up, or hire a lawyer at your own expense and fight them in court. Either way it’s going to cost you. A lot. Unlike defending yourself against a criminal charge you have no constitutional right to a court appointed attorney paid for by the public, because it is a civil procedure.

If you’re an illegal alien living in New York and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seeks to remove you from the country – also a civil procedure – you’re in luck, or at least you had been in luck until very recently. Since 2017, the state has voluntarily offered to provide you with a lawyer under the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) if you cannot afford one yourself, joining New York City which has been paying for legal representation for illegal aliens since 2013.

Except no one living in the Empire State is feeling all that lucky right now. COVID-19, raging crime and homelessness, failing schools, high taxes, a fleeing middle class, and myriad other factors have blown a Grand Central Terminal-size hole in the state’s budget. The state budget office projected in April that New York would see a 14 percent decline in revenues for the coming year, resulting in a $13.3 billion budget shortfall. And it will only get worse from there, with a projected decline of $61 billion in revenue through FY 2024.

The budget squeeze has gotten so bad in New York that even illegal aliens are feeling the pinch and that has outraged advocates for this most protected class of New Yorkers. Writing on the opinion page of the New York Daily News, illegal alien advocates Steven Choi and Kica Matos, complain that the state is reneging on promises it has made to illegal aliens.

“[T]he Cuomo administration is refusing to pay in full for bills that were accounted for in the 2019 budget. With no explanation or regard to the budget that was signed into law last year, the administration is now determining which programs will see their funding cut and which ones won’t,” they complain, as though the fiscal and other crises facing New York aren’t self-explanatory.

If declining to pay the legal bills of immigrants who have no constitutional right to taxpayer-funded legal representation were not enough to outrage New Yorkers, Choi and Matos plead for public sympathy for lawyers! “Refusing to pay for sustained legal services will mean lawyers will lose their jobs,” they write. (Oh, the horror!) “To avoid layoffs, continue client services, and successfully fight the terror the federal government is inflicting on immigrants in New York State, NYIFUP and other legal organizations need to be paid in full for the work they have already done. There needs to be an ironclad commitment that the state will continue to sustain this critical work moving forward,” they demand.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who occasionally exhibits some grip on fiscal reality, further infuriated those who demand that illegal aliens receive preferential treatment by suggesting that they take their pleas for funding legal representation for illegal aliens up with the federal government. It’s hard not to believe that Cuomo had his tongue in his cheek when he offered that advice, but Choi and Matos were not amused or even seemingly aware that the governor might have other, more deserving constituencies, with problems that need to be addressed…if any of them still remain.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.