NEW YORK (PIX11) — A proposed New York State law would guarantee legal representation for people facing deportation, the bill’s backers said Friday, calling the legislation the first of its kind in the nation.

The proposed Access to Representation Act is sponsored by state Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and state Assemblymember Catalina Cruz (D-Queens). If passed, it would ensure that New Yorkers facing deportation have access to an attorney, regardless of their ability to pay.

There is currently no such guarantee under the law, meaning that those unable to afford counsel in a deportation case are often forced to fend for themselves in court against government attorneys, according to a news release detailing the legislation.

“For an immigrant facing deportation, having an attorney on their case is not a luxury – it can be a matter of life or death,” said Hoylman in part in a statement. “It can be the difference between someone staying in New York or being permanently separated from their family.”

The proposal comes as thousands of migrants have been bused and flown in recent months from southern states to cities including New York, Chicago, and Washington. Political leaders from those states have characterized the effort as an attempt to highlight and protest what they say is President Joe Biden’s failure to secure the country’s southern border.

In a statement, Cruz said that the legislation will help protect asylum seekers in New York.

“New York must have the infrastructure in place to support asylum seekers as they arrive in our state, as well as our long-term immigrant neighbors,” said Cruz in part. “That means providing lawyers to keep families together. As thousands of immigrants statewide face deportation without a secured right to an attorney, their ability to get a fair shot at justice greatly diminishes.”

The bill has the support of groups including the New York Immigration Coalition and the Vera Institute of Justice.