At a press conference in Manhattan on Thursday, Nisha Agarwal, commissioner for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), said New York City will “lead the way” in showing that administrative relief will not be stopped. “The eyes of the country are on New York City,” she said. “We are the quintessential immigrant city.”
Administrative relief has been temporarily halted by a Texas court injunction, which is currently under appeal. But NYC officials have decided to help prepare immigrants anyway by offering free legal screenings and advice to immigrants who may qualify for relief under the program.
New York City officials hope this will reduce immigration fraud by providing safe and confidential legal advice through known and vetted service providers. A program like administrative relief, Agarwal said, opens the door for unscrupulous, unqualified, or even just irresponsible immigration attorneys to take advantage of immigrants hoping to benefit.
The first of many planned free legal screenings around the city will take place on April 12 at Temple Emanu-El at 1 East 65th St. The screening will evaluate eligibility for either the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program.
Individuals interested in registering for the screening can call 212-419-3700.
The screenings are just one part of a multifaceted effort by NYC to combat immigration fraud. At the briefing, it was also mentioned that immigrants can anonymously call the New York State New Americans Hotline (800-566-7636) to report immigration services scams.
Also on Thursday, in a separate announcement, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the formation of a new joint task force to target those who prey on immigrants and encourage victims of fraud to come forward.
The task force, led by MOIA and the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, together with the Office of Attorney General, will dedicate enforcement resources and conduct a public awareness campaign to stop predators from taking advantage of immigrant communities in advance of the full implementation of Obama’s administrative relief program on immigration.