How is the New Manhattan DA Handling Immigration?

This video features Cory Forman, an Immigration Law attorney based in New York.

NYC Immigration Lawyer Discusses Alvin Bragg’s Agenda

Video Transcript:

Cory Forman: 

He is taking a position that people who are here, who are not United States citizens should not suffer a more severe penalty, by virtue of the fact that they are not US citizens. And that's what happens in a lot of these criminal prosecutions against the immigrant population.

Rob Rosenthal: 

The new district attorney in Manhattan ran on a platform of criminal justice reform, seems to be making some changes. The question is, how could those changes be affecting non-citizens who are having immigration issues? We're gonna find out right now on this episode of, Ask the Lawyer. My guest is New York City attorney, Cory Forman. I'll remind you right off the top, if you wanna ask Corey questions about your situation, it's easy. Go to askthelawyers.com, click the button up at the top that says, "Ask a lawyer." it'll walk you right through the very simple process, or you can simply call the phone number that you'll see on the screen during our conversation. Cory, good to see you, as always. Thank you for making some time.

Cory Forman: 

Thanks so much for having me, Rob. Good to be here.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So, Manhattan has this new district attorney, he seems to be changing things up already. Tell me about some of the general policy changes that he's put into effect?

Cory Forman: 

Well, DA Bragg, he ran on a platform of reform. He ran on acknowledging that despite what the intentions are, the system does unfairly prosecute brown skin and minority populations, and he's looking to rectify that by taking a more rehabilitative approach to the criminal justice system. There are certain prosecutions that are not gonna be prosecuted as aggressively. In my career as a public defender, it was amazing how many really low-level crimes were bumped up to felonies for no other reason than to pressure defendants to plead guilty. This did have a disproportionate effect on minority populations, and he's looking to make it more of an equitable system. He's looking to do away with over-aggressive prosecutions on felony bump-ups for cases that aren't worth it, and he's getting a lot of heat. He's definitely getting a lot of heat from some of the more conservative media and politicians. It remains to be seen what the effect is going to be, but for instance, not every high-level misdemeanor needs to also be a felony, which he's looking to instruct his assigned ADAs to really ascertain the facts of the case and prosecute it as the facts of the crime see fit, and not bump it up strictly for a negotiating position with defendants.

Rob Rosenthal: 

I don't know anybody, Cory, who's more plugged in with criminal and immigration than you are, so in your opinion, how is this gonna affect non-citizens who maybe having immigration issues?

Cory Forman: 

Well, it is going to affect non-citizens tremendously, because let's face it, the reality is, most of the non-citizens in New York come from Latin American countries. There's big populations though from all over the world. Eastern Europe, that's not to take away from them as well, and the contributions they make. But a lot of the criminal prosecutions of non-citizens are against people from South America, Latin America, Mexico, Dominican Republic, we see it all the time. And there is a inherently... Racist bent to it, I'm just gonna say it. Also with the immigration population being that most of them come from and their backgrounds, there's gonna be severe immigration consequences to a lot of those prosecutions. DA Bragg recognizes that. He has addressed that in statements he's made, in policy memos. He is taking a position that people who are here, who are not United States citizens, should not suffer a more severe penalty by virtue of the fact that they are not US citizens.

Cory Forman: 

And that's what happens in a lot of these criminal prosecutions against the immigrant population. And I'm confident that we're gonna see more reasonable district attorney offers, more reasonable plea bargaining situations to help immigrants get out of the immigration consequence of whatever criminal prosecution is coming at them. For instance, a lot of low-level drug crimes, I'm confident we're gonna see more negotiations to alternative offenses that don't have the same immigration consequence that say, a cocaine possession has. Those are severe consequences in the immigration world. Where a US citizen would pay a fine on a first offense, a non-citizen could face life time banishment from the United States. That's not the intent of the statute, and it wasn't looking to prosecute immigrants more extensively. And the DA recognizes that, and I commend him for trying to implement policies that rectify that horrible inequity.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So it would seem to me, and I certainly am not well-versed in all of this, but that seems to affect people who are in the system, and maybe waiting for answers. What about people who have already gotten answers and might wanna appeal, Cory, do you think this will affect any of them?

Cory Forman: 

Well, sure. As you know, at Cohen Forman Barone, we do a lot of post-conviction relief work. A lot of it is related to non-citizens, people who find themselves unable to apply for adjustment of status, unable to apply for a Green Card, unable to apply for citizenship, sponsor their family members, because of low level crimes from years and years and years ago. So we take a lot of post-conviction motions to try to get those convictions vacated. I think what we're gonna see now is a more willing partner, for lack of a better term, in the district attorney's office. While they are on the opposite side, my hope is that they are gonna see that being a prosecutor is only one of the many hats that the assistant district attorney wears, and they are gonna have a responsibility and be willing to work with us in vacating those convictions. Either for outright dismissal, or in a sense, re-working an old plea and having someone re-plea to something that doesn't have that same consequence. That coupled with some of the new laws in New York on post-conviction motions, especially for misdemeanors, makes it a much friendlier environment for non-citizens to seek vacating their convictions.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Is it safe, Cory, to say that there's a log jam in the system right now, and do you think that this could help speed up the process maybe and clear up that log jam?

Cory Forman: 

Well, defense attorneys are often blamed unfairly so for creating log jams and delaying, but the reality of the situation was, if prosecution weren't so overly aggressive, and if offers weren't so ridiculously unfair, there would be no reason to delay. We could expedite the plea-bargaining process for cases that do plea bargain. So, I think, in that sense, yes, I do think there's gonna be more efficient plea bargaining, and cases will be disposed of. At the same time, you're probably gonna have people, rightfully so, seeking relief, where once it was unavailable to them, because now they do have a more friendly partner. And I don't think that's a bad thing. While there is a log jam and delay, justice is justice, and if someone has been unjustly penalized for their entire life, because of a mistake they made 20, 30 years ago, but for that mistake, they could live legally and productively in the United States, they should have an opportunity to do that.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So what's your advice then for non-citizens who hear about these changes and wanna know whether this could help them and help their situations?

Cory Forman: 

Obviously, contact a lawyer. Here at Cohen Forman Barone, we do have the advantage of being one of the very few that specialize in both the criminal and immigration context. So when having that knowledge in both areas is a nuance that we bring to the table in analyzing cases, analyzing chances for success, and how you approach a district attorney or a prosecutor in New York State, in terms of trying to rectify that wrong. But obviously, definitely speak to an attorney who has a grasp of both of these issues, and then able to navigate someone's situation successfully.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Lots of really good information. It's fascinating too. Thank you so much for making some time to answer our questions, Cory.

Cory Forman: 

Alright, thanks so much, Rob.

Rob Rosenthal: 

That's gonna be all for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been New York City attorney, Cory Forman. I remind you again, if you want to contact Cory about your situation, go to askthelawyers.com, click on the button at the top that says, "Ask a lawyer." It'll walk you right through the process, or of course you can call the phone number that was on the screen during our conversation. Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal for Ask the Lawyers.

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