Policy & Advocacy

Our policy work is grounded in the belief that all people, including those with convictions, deserve equal rights and that people should not be perpetually punished on the basis of having a criminal record.

IDP’s immigration advocacy work focuses on ending the vilification and mass deportation of immigrants, particularly those with criminal convictions.

IDPs work includes ending the entanglement between immigration and the police, building strategic alliances with criminal justice advocates, and supporting directly-impacted communities by providing information, analysis, and strategy towards expanding rights and transforming the criminal and immigration systems.

State and Local Advocacy


New Yorkers have fought for years to limit the City from conspiring with ICE. In 2014, the City Council passed laws limiting when the NYPD and DOC will honor an ICE detainer and whose information they could share with ICE. Despite the goals of the law, the City has kept funneling people into ICE custody.

ICE Out! NYC is a campaign to restrict our City from conspiring with ICE in the detention and deportation of our communities. To do this, we call on the City Council to pass three key bills, Intro 396, Intro 395, an Intro 214.

To read more on this campaign, view our fact sheet here, which has been translated into Spanish, Haitian Creole, Arabic, Bangla and French.

To learn more about Intro 214 and why we need a private right of action to hold the City accountable, see here.

Fair Courts for Immigrant New Yorkers

Immigrants have a right to receive immigration advice from defense counsel when facing criminal charges, due to the severe immigration consequences that can follow, including detention, deportation and ineligibility for U.S. citizenship.  In New York, due to the gravity of potential immigration issues that can follow from a plea, judges notify people of this risk to help ensure they make informed pleas and promptly have an opportunity to discuss the issues with their counsel. However, judges are only required to give notification in felony cases, right before someone enters a plea, and without standardized notification language, which results in notifications that can be misleading and confusing. For years, IDP has worked to fight this problem, to expand who gets notification and to ensure accountability when it is not given.  

On June 1, 2022, IDP applauded the passage of the Court Notifications Bill which strengthens immigrants’ constitutional right to receive legal advice in criminal court. However, on December 12th, IDP and 15 other advocacy organizations condemned the Governor’s Veto.

New York For All Act

For years ICE has tried to divide us, determined to cruelly target immigrants and separate families. ICE continues to lean on local law enforcement and local government agencies to search for, arrest, and deport people, and to separate families who are part of our New York. When local agencies conspire with ICE, it further criminalizes, targets, and marginalizes immigrant communities, and magnifies the injustices of the racially biased criminal legal system and discriminatory policing. 

All New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, want to participate in their communities, provide for family, and access health care and public goods without fear and intimidation.The New York for All Act (S3076/A2328) offers protections that help make this possible, by prohibiting all local law enforcement and state agencies from conspiring with ICE or participating in its cruelty. Read more about the legislation here.

Justice Roadmap

In 2018, Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) and allies brought together organizations engaged in criminal justice, immigration, and racial justice legislative campaigns to form the Justice Roadmap, a unique collective space in New York State. In 2019, we issued our initial Justice Roadmap—a collection of bills that address harms caused by the criminal and immigration systems, in particular on communities of color. We continue our work to develop a shared legislative platform focused on the intersection between the criminal legal system and immigrant rights, and grounded in basic human dignity, racial justice, and human rights.

The Roadmap includes reforms through the full spectrum of systemic contact—from street stops and arrests, through their cascading and sometimes permanent punishments, such as parole denials and deportation. Our efforts are oriented towards long-term power-building to win the passage of transformative, decarceral legislation and further public understanding that policing and punishment regimes fly counter to public safety and community health.

Marijuana Legalization: Fighting for Immigrant Communities

Marijuana convictions can carry devastating consequences for immigrants–including deportation, detention, and the loss of eligibility for immigration status. Since 2003, the US has deported more than 45,000 people whose most serious conviction was marijuana possession. Despite this incredible harm, immigrant communities are often left out of the conversation around marijuana legalization. For years, IDP has been working with the Drug Policy Alliance to fight racist and excessively punitive drug policies. IDP and our allies in the Start SMART New York coalition are fighting to make sure New York legalizes marijuana the right way, with economic and racial justice.

ICE Out of the Courts

Over the past decade, ICE has increasingly embedded itself in the criminal legal system, employing criminalizing narratives and the tools of the racialized systems of policing and punishment to advance its deportation. In New York State, one of the manifestations of this is increasing ICE raids, including ICE arrests and surveillance at courthouses. The Immigrant Defense Project closely monitors ICE activity in the courts and has seen a significant uptick in ICE courthouse arrests since the beginning of 2017. In response, we have been coordinating a campaign to get ICE Out of the Courts in New York State and have been supporting similar campaigns nationally. The ICE Out of Courts campaign has been working with our partners in the Justice Roadmap, calling on the New York Legislature to address racialized state violence in all of its forms, and that includes protecting immigrant New Yorkers from ICE policing.

Pardon: The Immigrant Clemency Project

In the Fall of 2018, IDP launched Pardon: the Immigrant Clemency Project, an initiative that aims to protect immigrants and to push back against policies that disempower and marginalize people with criminal histories.

One Day to Protect New Yorkers – 364 Day

The One Day to Protect New Yorkers Act fixes a discrepancy between federal and state sentencing law that puts people at risk of immigration detention and deportation. This change protects thousands of New Yorkers from being torn away from their communities due to immigration detention, denial of necessary immigration relief, and deportation.

Criminal Legal System and Drug Reform

IDP identifies strategic initiatives and builds alliances to end the injustices at the intersection of the criminal legal and immigration systems, such as marijuana legalization, policing reform, and more.

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Federal Advocacy

Connecting local work to federal advocacy

In the just immigration reform at the federal level, effective advocacy requires a focus on nationally connected local battles. IDP works to share knowledge and insights from innovative campaigns that we and our partners are leading in the state of New York, a key battleground for DHS’ deportation programs, in order to support campaigns and build momentum nationally. We collaborate in national networks and convenings to ensure a coordinated strategy that moves everyone forward. Meanwhile, our longstanding work with public defenders representing immigrants (often the last lawyer an immigrant may see before facing detention and deportation), allows us to monitor shifting ICE tactics on the ground, information we then share with partners nationally.

Advocating through the Immigrant Justice Network

Since 2006, IDP has collaborated on national advocacy with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and the National Immigration Project (NIP/NLG) through the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN). Guided by the vision of a society where all people receive fair and equal treatment under the law, we work together to to provide legal, technical, and messaging support to immigrant communities, legal practitioners, and all advocates seeking to advance the rights of noncitizens.

IJN’s chief goals are to protect the rights of immigrants accused of crimes within the criminal justice process, eliminate unjust and disproportionate immigration penalties for immigrants accused or convicted of crimes, and seek just immigration reform for all immigrants.

Working to shape the national conversation on immigrant rights

IDP coordinates the Comm/Unity Network, a cohort of communicators committed to dismantling criminalization and creating a new “common sense” in which no human being is seen as disposable.

Comm/Unity’s goal is to end harmful and criminalizing narratives through a series of resources, strategic messaging trainings and opinion research.

Learn more about the Comm/Unity network .