'Justice Fund' to Cover Legal Costs for Immigrants Facing Deportation

Major cities are going up against President-elect Donald Trump's hardline immigration policies, including Los Angeles, which said it will set up a $10 million "L.A. Justice Fund" for the cause.

REUTERS

Cities across the country have agreed to cover legal fees for immigrants who now face deportation following President-elect Donald Trump's victory on Election Day. Notably, Los Angeles will have a $10 million fund dedicated to legal assistance in response to Trump's "dangerous rhetoric," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced.


"We don't know how far the new administration will go when it comes to our nation's immigration policy, but we've all heard the rhetoric, the dangerous rhetoric of the election," Garcetti said.

Immigrants facing deportation who are not detained and are able to obtain legal counsel are almost five times more likely to win their cases than those who do not have legal assistance — 63 percent versus 13 percent, according to a study released in September. (For immigrants who have been detained, 49 percent with counsel received relief, compared to 23 percent without representation.)

"In this climate of fear, it's crucial that immigrants turn to legitimate lawyers so they aren't victimized by scam artists who prey on their vulnerability," said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer in a press release.

Half of the fund will come from government funds ($2 million from the city, $3 million from the county) and the other half will be provided through private philanthropic groups. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti cited Trump's hardline stance on immigration as the reason for the fund.

"As leaders of our county and city governments and this region's philanthropic community, we are saying something loud and clear with a simple voice," Garcetti said. "We are saying that the good and law-abiding immigrants of Los Angeles — our family members, our friends, our neighbors — they belong here and we will fight for them."

According to the American Community Survey (ACS), about 43 million people make up the foreign-born population in the United States. In the city of Los Angeles, 37.4 percent of the city's total population — more than 1.4 million people — are immigrants. Eighty percent have been in the country since before 2010.

"A fair system of justice should provide immigrants who confront deportation — including children and families striving to realize their hopes and dreams — with lawyers to protect their rights," said Feuer.

L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis called the Justice Fund "just another step in a long-term strategy, reinforcing the safety net for our county's immigrants."

"Immigrant workers, you may know, contribute 40 percent of the county's gross domestic product," she said. "That's nearly $300 billion in contributions to the county."

About 2,000 protesters marched in the city on Sunday on the eve of the Electoral College officially electing Trump as president. (Sunday also marked International Migrants Day.) Demonstrators carried signs that said "Stop Trump," "Refugees Welcome" and "Make America Think Again" — a play on Trump's infamous campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."

"I want to tell Mr. Trump that we are immigrants, we help this economy grow, we don't want nothing for free," said one activist.

Earlier this month, the California Senate introduced an emergency bill that would create a California Universal Representation Trust Fund, which would be able to accept private donations in order to provide legal services for immigrants who would not otherwise be entitled to representation.

Also this month, the county's Board of Supervisors voted in support of a plan that would protect the identities of immigrant communities that may be impacted by policies under the new administration. The motion passed 4-0, with one supervisor abstaining, LAist reported.

"People are terrified," Solis said at the time.

In addition to Los Angeles, Chicago also approved its own $1.3 million legal fund for immigrants. New York is creating a plan as well, The Associated Press reported.

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