2021 – A.1481 / S.2903

2021 – A.1481 / S.2903

Position Statement

A.1481 (Rodriguez) /S.2903 (Kavanagh)


The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) supports A.1481/S.2903 requiring that non-citizens of the United States be provided with notice by Courts, prior to accepting a plea to a misdemeanor or violation in Criminal Court, that acceptance of that plea could result in automatic deportation, removal from the United States, exclusion from the United States or denial of citizenship.

This bill would amend CPL §340.20 by adding a new subdivision 5 which would require Courts to provide such notification to all defendants in the event that they are not citizens of the United States. In 1996, Congress made several major changes to federal immigration law. Under the new federal law, legal immigrants and residents may be subject to automatic removal (deportation) even if they plead guilty to some minor offenses classified under New York law as violations. Although case law exists that requires such a notification as proposed by this bill (see, People v. Jose Bello, 2017 NY Slip Op 50769(U) (2d Dept. 6/2/2017) and People v. Martial, 2015 NY Slip Op 00911 (2d Dept. 2/4/15)), city, town and village courts continually fail to provide this notification to non-citizen clients on these minor offenses.

New York State is considered one of the greatest cultural hubs in the United States, having welcomed immigrants throughout its long history. Immigrants now account for nearly one-quarter of the New York State population and almost one-fifth native-born U.S. citizens have at least one immigrant parent. In 2018, New York was home to 2.3 million women and 206,980 children who were immigrants[1]. Over half a million U.S. citizens in New York live with at least one family member who is undocumented (between 2010-2014), and about 1 in 12 children (approximately 351,146 children) in the state was a U.S. citizen living with at least one undocumented family member[2].

Defendant’s pleading guilty to minor offenses are unaware of the harsh federal immigration consequences of doing so. This bill requires all defendants to be notified, during the plea process for misdemeanors and violations, that pleading guilty may subject them to automatic deportation, exclusion from the United States or denial of naturalization. Non-citizens will now have the opportunity to consider the harsh immigration consequences of pleading guilty to a minor offense, even if doing so would have provided no sentence or fine.

WBASNY’s mission is to promote the advancement of the status of all women and children in society and to promote the fair and equal administration of justice regardless of citizenship. With over 4,000 members strong, WBASNY speaks as one voice to advocate for equal access to justice here in the State of New York and beyond.

[1] Amer. Immigration Council, Immigrants in New York 8/6/2020, https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/immigrants-in-new-york .

[2] Id.