LA Takes Its Biggest Stand Against Trump With Massive $10M Legal Fund for Undocumented Immigrants

Lead Photo: Photo: Edgard Garrido/Reuters
Photo: Edgard Garrido/Reuters
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As we head into uncertain times under new leadership, Los Angeles has vowed to stand beside its undocumented community. This week, the city took its biggest stand yet. Donald Trump’s impending presidency has instilled fear in the undocumented immigrants who worry he’ll follow through on his plan for mass deportations. Trump has, for the time being, eased off on his initial plan to deport the 11 million undocumented people who live in the United States.

But he hopes to immediately deport potentially two to three million with criminal records. (Data reveals there aren’t that many undocumented immigrants with criminal records.) He even hopes to push cities into cooperating with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by withholding federal funding to any that maintained their sanctuary city status. But several cities across the United States promised to protect their undocumented community, despite the consequences. Los Angeles was one of them.

Now, the city has gone one step further to help undocumented immigrants stand a fighting a chance. On Monday, the city announced a $10 million L.A. Justice Fund that guarantees those at risk of deportation a lawyer. Trump wants to repatriate immigrants quickly, but deportation can be a slow process. A court must find an immigrant – even if they’ve committed a crime – deportable. The Fifth Amendment guarantees everyone the right to due process.

Taxpayers will fund part of the service through city and county taxes, and nonprofits will provide the remaining $5 million. “People who have built their lives in America have rights, and they deserve all of the protections that our legal system provides,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said, according to LA Weekly. “The L.A. Justice Fund will reach out to people who are American by every measure except the papers they hold – our family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. They are part of our community, and we will fight for them.”

Statistics show that immigrants who have representation are more likely to succeed in court, the Los Angeles Times reports. However, unlike criminal court, free counsel isn’t available in immigration proceedings. Therefore, those who can’t afford an attorney end up having to represent themselves. That puts immigrants at an extreme disadvantage, as they go up against legal professionals. Without representation only 3 percent of people argue their cases successfully, immigration lawyer Luis F. Mancheno wrote in a Huffington Post article. “This jaw-dropping difference shows not only how essential it is to be represented by counsel in immigration court but it also shows that millions of immigrants have an actual legal path to remain in the U.S.,” Mancheno wrote. “Many people assume there are no defenses in deportation cases, but statistics show the contrary.”

While Mancheno commends cities across the country for trying to shield their undocumented communities from deportation, he said that providing sanctuary isn’t enough. Instead, cities need to begin investing in legal counsel for those in the immigration court system.

A vote by the county’s board of supervisors will determine if the city can set $1 million from the budget toward the fund. The Los Angeles City Council will take up the issue again next month.