Los Angeles County Will Kick in $3 Million to Immigration Fund

Matt Reynolds

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Responding to President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to deport millions of immigrants, Los Angeles County leaders Tuesday agreed to contribute $3 million to a $10 million legal fund for undocumented immigrants who cannot afford a lawyer.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the motion to contribute to the L.A. Justice Fund, which the city unveiled on Monday.

Immigrant groups gathered on the steps of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration Tuesday morning before the motion passed. A row of supporters stood behind a banner with the slogan “Due Process for All.”

Another placard displayed a mock California license plate stating: “Immigrants Are Welcome Here.”

Flanked by the advocates, National Immigration Law attorney Shiu-Ming Cheer said immigrants typically face an experienced attorney who works for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and that without representation many immigrants find it impossible to avoid deportation.

“For too long we’ve had a due process crisis in L.A. and the rest of the country. Without representation, people face not only deportation but their family members face the loss of a breadwinner, and a child faces the loss of a parent. So deportations have an impact beyond an individual person,” Cheer said.

In passing the motion, the county agreed to contribute $1 million in fiscal year 2016-2017, and up to $2 million the following fiscal year.

The California Community Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, and the California Endowment also will contribute to the fund. Government entities will contribute $5 million, and the rest of the money will come from private foundations, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office said Monday.

The mayor’s office said that by some estimates there are 3,700 immigrants detained in the Los Angeles area without legal representation.

According to The California Coalition for Universal Representation, detained immigrants fighting deportation in California succeed only 6 percent of the time in their legal battles. Detained immigrants who are represented succeed more than five times as often, the group said in its June study: “California’s Due Process Crisis: Access to Legal Counsel for Detained Immigrants.”

President-elect Trump campaigned on promises to build a wall at the Mexican border, and said that within 100 days of taking office he will cut federal funds to so-called “sanctuary cities” that protect undocumented immigrants.

“Block funding for sanctuary cities. We block the funding. No more funding,” Trump said in August. “Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars.”

But city leaders, including Mayor Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck, say they will not help the Trump administration if he tries to make good on his promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

Speaking to the Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles Unified Board of Education President Steve Zimmer did not mention Trump by name, but said children in the school district are coming to teachers and administrators with “sincere fear about what will happen to them.”

“Not just to them, to their dreams, to their hopes, to their aspirations, to their mission and march toward that graduation stage,” Zimmer said.

Maria Jose-Vides, a student at Pomona College, urged the board to pass the motion.

“I can’t go back home one day and find an empty home. That prevents a lot of us from being successful academically and personally. We are here to contribute to the growth of this country, of this county,” Jose-Vides said, her voice breaking at times. “This measure will not only protect our parents, but also many of us after we leave our home institutions.”

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn introduced the motion. After it was approved, Solis said the immigration system is “broken.”

“Until our federal leaders are able to deliver comprehensive immigration reform, they should not lay the burden of their gridlock on our local economy and our families,” Solis said in a statement. “Legal representation is not about being a Republican or a Democrat. It is not even about being pro-immigrant or anti-immigrant. It is about reinforcing a safety net that is pro-family, pro-economic growth and stability, and pro-civil and human rights.”

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