Los Angeles Daily News (California)
By Susan Abram
June 21, 2017
Los Angeles County will drop $3 million into a legal defense fund to help undocumented immigrants and others facing deportation after the Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to approve the allocation.
The vote means the LA Justice Fund, first proposed in December by Los Angeles city and county officials in response to President Donald Trump’s hard stance on immigrants in the country illegally, is closer to its $10 million goal.
About two dozen speakers from various organizations such as the NAACP of Pomona, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA and the Guadalupe Homeless Project spoke in favor of the fund Tuesday and thanked the board for the money.
“The county’s $3 million contribution will give immigrants facing deportation a fighting chance that they did not have before,” said Eric Hubbard, development director of Jovenes Inc., which provides homeless youth in Los Angeles with shelter and housing.
But some were disappointed that the funds did not go far enough. Legal representation would not be provided to people who have been convicted of, or who are currently appealing a conviction for a violent felony. That includes murder, rape, inflicting bodily harm, sexual assault, carjacking, extortion and threats to victims or witnesses, and other crimes.
“We are disappointed that the LA Justice Fund does not address all the legal needs of all Angelenos,” said Martin Garcia, a member of LA Voice, a community group that aims to improve the quality of life in L.A.
Those who do qualify would be people with close ties to Los Angeles County whose family members are U.S. citizens, or who are lawful permanent individuals with community ties, or those who are deferred action for childhood arrivals or DACA recipients. Also qualifying are those who are heads of a household with one or more dependent family members, unaccompanied children and veterans. Victims of domestic violence or human trafficking also will be considered, according to the agreement.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said the goal is to help people in need navigate a tricky legal process.
“Today, the board took a significant step to create a safety net for immigrants, one that is pro-family, pro-economic growth and stability, and pro-civil and human rights,” Solis said in a statement. “The LA Justice Fund will be able to help those individuals who have simply been trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.”
It takes $5,000 to fund an immigration case, according to the Boston Immigrant Justice Initiative, Solis said in a joint statement with Supervisor Janice Hahn.
About 7,000 Los Angeles County residents face removal proceedings without a lawyer each year, they added.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who also voted to approve allocating the money, said she understood the disappointment expressed by some community leaders. Under the Trump administration, she added, the federal government doesn’t distinguish between serious crimes and people “who steal popcorn at a movie theater.”
“I wish there were a way not to exclude,” Kuehl said of those who have crimes in their past. “So many people have paid their dues to society, have paid the price and served their time. So I wish there was a way to at least look at their lives.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger cast the lone dissenting vote, saying that the deportations are occurring because of a broken immigration system.
“It is the federal government’s responsibility to support states and counties in their efforts to address the costs of illegal immigration,” she said. “County taxpayers should not be forced to bear the cost to provide free legal representation for those facing deportation.”
One anti-immigration group, We the People Rising, said in a statement the county should use the funds to help American citizens.
“This $3 million allotment should be expended to help homeless American families, our veterans, disabled American citizens and the unemployed, who are suffering by the thousands throughout the county,” said Robin Hvidston, executive director of the group.
The board’s approval means $1 million will be contributed to the fund in the upcoming fiscal year, and another $2 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Los Angeles city and county leaders plan to contribute a total of $5 million to the proposed $10 million fund, with local nonprofit organizations providing the rest. So far, $2.2 million from philanthropic and nonprofit organizations has been collected for the L.A. Justice Fund, which is overseen by the California Community Foundation.
At Los Angeles City Hall, the Budget and Finance Committee advanced a proposal this week for the city’s $2 million portion of the LA Justice Fund, which also would leave out those with violent felony convictions, as well as immigrants who have committed crimes related to human trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence and pimping. The full 15-member City Council is expected to take up the issue on Friday.
Staff writer Elizabeth Chou contributed to this report.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com