RIAC General Information

ILS Regional Immigration Assistance Centers

The Sixth Amendment requires defense counsel to provide clients with specific advice about clear immigration consequences of a plea bargain. See Padilla v Kentucky, 599 US 386 (2010). The failure of counsel to meet that constitutional duty can have profound consequences for noncitizen clients. But giving competent advice requires knowledge of immigration laws that are complex and constantly in flux, and many defender offices and ACPs cannot hire in-house experts. Fortunately, free expert advice is available to defenders.

To ensure that counsel has access to the support needed to provide effective assistance to noncitizens, in 2016, ILS created a statewide network of Regional Immigration Assistance Centers (RIACs or Centers), staffed by attorneys with extensive expertise in immigration law. This innovative program was the first of its kind in the nation. In 2020, ILS initiated a new three-year contract period, offering grants to continue to fully fund the RIACs.

The extensive services provided by RIAC attorneys include immigration advisals in criminal, appellate, and post-conviction matters, as well as in Family Court cases carrying potential immigration consequences. The Centers also offer extensive trainings to counsel and courts.

In 2020, the Centers collectively responded to more than 2,000 requests for assistance. Defense counsel and the RIACs joined forces to protect noncitizens because they understand that the consequences of a plea bargain regarding even a minor offense may mean the difference between the client maintaining a life in the United States or being permanently separated from family and banished from a country long considered home. Often a RIAC can help counsel persuade a prosecutor to use an alternative plea deal providing for a conviction of the same level for the same jail time, while avoiding an inequitable penalty of deportation or inadmissibility. To find the Center serving your county, please see the information below.


Our Statewide Network

Region 1:  Western NY


Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming, Yates.

Supervising Attorney: 

Sophie Feal

Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo

290 Main Street, Suite 400

Buffalo, NY 14202

(716) 853-9555 ext. 269




RIAC Website


RIAC Brochure

Western NY - Legal Aid Bureau Buffalo/Ontario

RIAC Recent Newsletters & Articles 

Western NY Newsletter - January 2021

Western NY Newsletter - February 2021

Western NY Newsletter - March 2021

Western NY Newsletter - July 2021

Western NY Newsletter - August 2021

Western NY Newsletter - September 2021

Western NY Newsletter - October 2021

Western NY Newsletter - November 2021

Western NY Newsletter - December 2021

Western NY Newsletter - January 2022

Western NY Newsletter - February 2022

Western NY Newsletter - March 2022

Western NY Newsletter - April 2022

Western NY Newsletter - May 2022

Western NY Newsletter - July 2022

Western NY Newsletter - August 2022

Western NY Newsletter - September 2022

Western NY Newsletter - November 2022

Western NY Newsletter - December 2022

Western NY Newsletter - January 2023

Western NY Newsletter - February 2023

Western NY Newsletter - March 2023

Western NY Newsletter - April 2023

Western NY Newsletter - May 2023

Western NY Newsletter - June 2023

Western NY Newsletter - July 2023

Western NY Newsletter - August 2023

Western NY Newsletter - September 2023

Western NY Newsletter - October 2023

Western NY Newsletter - November 2023

Western NY Newsletter - December 2023

Western NY Newsletter - January 2024

Western NY Newsletter - February 2024

Western NY Newsletter - April 2024

Western NY Newsletter - May 2024


New York Law Journal - Understanding Your Foreign-Born Client: Perspectives of Immigrants and Refugees


Region 2:  Central NY


Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga, Tompkins.

Immigration Law Director:

Sharon L. Ames

109 South Warren Street, Suite 220 

Syracuse, NY 13202





RIAC Brochure

Central NY - Onondaga County 

RIAC Intake Form

Central NY - Intake Form

RIAC Recent Newsletters

Central NY Newsletter - January 2021

Central NY Newsletter - February 2021

Central NY Newsletter - March 2021

Central NY Newsletter - April 2021

Central NY Newsletter - May 2021

Central NY Newsletter - June 2021

Central NY Newsletter - September 2021

Central NY Newsletter - October 2021

Central NY Newsletter - November 2021

Central NY Newsletter - December 2021


Region 3:  Northern NY


Albany, Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, Washington.

Supervising Attorney:

Evelyn A. Kinnah, Esq.

112 State Street, Suite 900

Albany, NY 12207

(518) 447-4890



RIAC Website


RIAC Brochure

Northern NY - Albany County

RIAC Intake Form

Northern NY - Intake Form


Region 4:  Hudson Valley


Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, Westchester.

Supervising Attorney

Robert Horne

Legal Aid Society of Westchester County

50 Grand Street

White Plains, NY 10601

(914) 286-3408



RIAC Website


RIAC Brochure

Hudson Valley - Westchester County

RIAC Intake Form



Region 5:  NYC


Bronx, Kings, NY, Queens, Richmond.

Supervising Attorney:

Marie Mark

Immigrant Defense Project

Padilla Support Center

40 West 39th Street, 5th Floor

New York, NY 10018

(212) 725-6422



RIAC Website


RIAC Brochure

New York City - Immigrant Defense Project

RIAC Intake Forms



Region 6:  Long Island


Nassau and Suffolk.

Supervising Attorneys:

Donna Zak

Legal Aid Society of Nassau County

40 Main Street, 3rd Floor

Hempstead, NY 11550

(929) 279-3628


Christina Gaudio

Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County

Cohalan Court Complex

400 Carleton Drive, 4th Floor

Central Islip, NY 11722x

(631) 853-5216



RIAC Website


RIAC Brochure and Intake Forms


RIAC Newsletter



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