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Bolstered by the “War on Terror” and “War on Drugs,” the U.S. deportation apparatus has exploded over the last two decades. In the past five years alone, the United States deported more than 2 million immigrants. In this ever-hardening political context for immigrant with criminal convictions, in addition to our work to end the detention and deportation dragnet, IDP aims to identify strategic initiatives for reform in the criminal legal system to collaborate with allies to minimize arrest, imprisonment, and collateral consequences for both citizens and non-citizens.

Strategic Research Initiatives

In this era of mass deportation, where immigrants with convictions have been named by DHS as one of the primary targets for deportation, IDP works to develop and expand strategies to identify possibilities to expand rights within the criminal legal system. Working in close collaboration with allies, IDP researches multiple points of interventions — including local, state, and federal policy, as well as policing practices, judicial and prosecutorial practices, state penal codes, and litigation possibilities — to maximize rights for noncitizens and citizens.

We are working on areas where immigration consequences are particularly severe (e.g., drug and sex offenses); with heavily policed constituencies (e.g., LGBTQ, domestic violence, youth, gangs); and to support active criminal justice and immigration advocacy efforts.

One Day For New Yorkers: 364 Day Campaign

IDP is working with the Cardozo Law School IImmigration Justice Clinic to amend New York Penal Law to reduce the maximum prison sentence for New York misdemeanor offenses by one day (from 365 days to 364 days) to join other states that have recently taken such a step to protect immigrant state residents from deportation for minor offenses.

Though the proposed one day change is a small change in state law it would greatly reduce the immigration consequences faced by immigrant New Yorkers convicted of a misdemeanor offense and would help to restore some discretion to immigration judges. Immigrants are currently being deported for misdemeanor convictions, and immigration judges are being deprived of discretion to consider whether these deportations are warranted, because the maximum potential penalty for misdemeanors is one year. This is true, in most circumstances, even if the individual does not spend any time in jail at all. To learn more, contact 1Day4NY[at]@immdefense[dot]org [scramble email to prevent spam].

Marijuana Decriminalization

To combat the rising tide of mass deportation and interrupt the drug-offense-to-deportation pipeline, IDP works to educate advocates and community members about the immigration consequences of drug offenses and to change laws to decriminalize drugs. IDP is working with the Drug Policy Alliance to change drug policies to benefit both citizens and non-citizens.  IDP supported Human Rights Watch in their report to illustrate the devastating impact of the War on Drugs on immigrants We are currently working with the DPA on the a marijuana decriminalization in New York, bringing new immigrant rights allies into the work and highlighting the stories of those directly impacted by the intersection of harsh immigration and drug law.

Mitigating Broken Windows Policing

The widespread criminalization of a wide range of activities through NYPD’s broken windows or quality-of-life policing practices has steadily driven up rates of arrests for violations and misdemeanors in NYC since the 1980s. For non-citizens, even a violation or misdemeanor can lead to permanent exile, as the immigration system is extremely unforgiving.

To help protect against the negative consequences of discriminatory policing, IDP supports efforts to increase pre-arrest drug or mental health diversion programs, to protect civil and human rights against discriminatory and aggressive policing practices, and trains communities and defenders.

IDP was part of the coalition that worked on the IDNYC, a municipal ID program for New Yorkers. IDP’s role in this coalition was to maximize protections for immigrant New Yorkers who are vulnerable to deportation in the program — including pushing for the NYPD to not arrest immigrants who have ICE administrative warrants [upload finest message] and to maximize privacy protections [link] for New Yorkers whose documents have been retained as part of the application for the IDNYC.

We have partnered with the NYU Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic to advocate against the disproportionate, unjust impact non-criminal offenses–often addressed in Summons Court–can have in barring eligible young New Yorkers from DACA. IDP has initiated a multi-pronged advocacy effort, including legislative and policy change.

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