"L.A. Justice Fund" Will Offer Legal Help to Potential Deportees

Mayor Eric Garcetti announces the L.A. Justice Fund | photo courtesy L.A. Mayor's Office
Mayor Eric Garcetti announces the L.A. Justice Fund, with California Community Foundation President & CEO Antonia Hernández (far left), Councilmember Gil Cedillo (second from left) and City Attorney Mike Feuer (right) | photo courtesy lamayor.org

A new fund will provide $10 million dollars to provide legal help for immigrants in Los Angeles County who face deportation proceedings without a lawyer.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the creation of  the L.A. Justice Fund, which he said is a direct response to President-elect Donald Trump's threat to increase deportations of undocumented immigrants and other "dangerous rhetoric."

The fund is a joint effort between the City and County of Los Angeles, the California Community Foundation, the Weingart Foundation and the California Endowment.

"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."

The city will contribute $2 million, the county $3 million and private philanthropic organizations will chip in $5 million, Garcetti said.

The fund will focus on helping immigrants in the county under temporary status such as the Deferred Access for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, military families, refugees and unaccompanied minors. It will not provide aid to immigrants with a serious criminal history, Garcetti said.

A press release from the Mayor's office said the fund will begin serving immigrants early in 2017, after the funding partners decide how the funds will be best allocated.

The full details of the fund are still being worked out, but Garcetti said organizers hope to have everything in place by the time Trump is set to take office on Jan. 20. He also said the calendar year contributions from government would span fiscal years, with the immediate plan being for the city to contribute $1 million this fiscal year.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said she plans to introduce a motion at the next Board of Supervisors meeting asking her colleagues to approve an immediate $1 million contribution to the fund this fiscal year.

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

"In fact, undocumented immigrants alone contribute $57 billion to Los Angeles County's GDP every year," she said. "It's undeniable: immigrants in this country are working hard, but our federal immigration system as you know is broken."

City Attorney Mike Feuer said he did not believe there was any legal risk for the city to contribute to the fund, and said its purpose is to assure there is fairness in the immigration system. He also said statistics show immigrants facing deportation without a lawyer are five times more likely to be deported than those with representation.

“We need to protect hard-working immigrant families who contribute immensely to our economy and quality of life in Los Angeles,” said California Community Foundation President & CEO Antonia Hernández. “We’re proud to work alongside government partners and fellow foundations to ensure even the most vulnerable in immigrant communities have access to legal services and the due process they rightly deserve."

According to estimates, there are 3,700 unrepresented detained immigrants in the greater Los Angeles area, and potentially thousands of non-detained immigrants that are or may soon be in legal proceedings without a lawyer.

More information on the L.A. Justice Fund can be found at calfund.org/lajusticefund.

This article is based on a story from City News Service and a press release from the Mayor of L.A.

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