Los Angeles Creates $10M Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants

by | December 20, 2016

By Dakota Smith

In a dramatic response to the expected crackdown on illegal immigration by Donald Trump, Los Angeles leaders on Monday will announce a new $10 million fund to provide legal assistance for immigrants facing deportation.

Under the joint L.A. city and county effort, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is committing to $3 million, according to Supervisor Hilda Solis' office. The city is expected to put in $2 million. The rest of the money would be raised by philanthropic groups.

The move comes as leaders in Democratic-dominated California are developing ways to push back as the president-elect promises to deport millions of people in this country illegally.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Solis, City Attorney Mike Feuer and City Councilman Gil Cedillo will join philanthropic leaders to announce the creation of the L.A. Justice Fund.

Monday's announcement comes amid fears Trump will deport millions of people living in the U.S. illegally. More than 1 million of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country without legal status live in Los Angeles County, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Cedillo spokesman Fredy Ceja said Monday that the fund shows the city is "ready to respond."

"We're trying to find a common solution to whatever threats the federal government throws our way," Ceja said.

Los Angeles-area immigrant rights advocates, unions and legal organizations sent a letter last month to Garcetti, the City Council, and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors calling for more aggressive action in the face of possible deportations.

The coalition's list of demands included the creation of a legal defense fund.

State lawmakers also recently introduced a flurry of bills aimed at protecting immigrants. Democratic state Sen. Ben Hueso introduced legislation to create a state program to pay for legal representation for those facing deportation, while Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta wants to create state-funded centers to train attorneys on immigration law.

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson announced last month that he'll seek to hire an immigrant advocate to take on the effort and pursue policies to prevent L.A. residents from being deported. He also said the city should work with schools and community colleges on strategies to keep families together and prevent deportations.

But it remains far from clear what city governments can do to block or even delay deportations, which are under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Some cities have refused to fully cooperate with immigration officials. San Francisco enacted a law stating that local authorities could not hold immigrants for possible deportation if they had no violent felonies on their records and did not currently face charges.

Critics say the tough talk in the wake of Trump's election is more about politics than actually preventing the president-elect from having his way.

Los Angeles officials have been vocal since election day about protecting the city's immigrants. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has reiterated that the department has no plans to get involved in any deportation efforts by the federal government and would continue a longstanding policy against allowing officers to stop people solely to determine their immigration status.

Illegal immigration was a central issue of Trump's presidential campaign. He called for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, deportation of people in the country illegally and a rollback in the immigration relief created under President Barack Obama. Trump said during the campaign that he would withhold federal funds to punish so-called sanctuary cities, including Los Angeles and Chicago, for their lenient policies toward illegal immigration.

(c)2016 Los Angeles Times