Friday, November 10, 2017

Amid Immigration Crackdown, Cities Step In With Free Legal Aid

Teresa Wiltz on the Huffington Post reports that, because immigration proceedings are civil rather than criminal, participants don’t have a right to a lawyer. But having one is a huge advantage for immigrants seeking to stay here, so as President Donald Trump’s administration tightens enforcement of immigration laws, some cities and states are providing free legal assistance to immigrants facing deportation.

In April, New York became the first state to guarantee legal representation to every noncitizen who has been detained by immigration officials, allocating $10 million in fiscal 2018 for an immigrant defense fund. And in June, California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, earmarked $15 million to provide assistance to noncitizens seeking legal immigration status.

Cities are taking action, too. In 2013, New York City moved to establish the country’s first public defender system for immigrant detainees. This year, the City Council agreed to allocate $10 million for legal aid to immigrants facing deportation in 2018, up from $2.7 million last year.

Over the past year, Austin, Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., are among the cities that have started offering free legal aid to immigrants in danger of being deported.

But the cities’ efforts aren’t helping immigrants in rural areas, where the dearth of immigration attorneys is especially stark. Immigrants held in federal detention facilities are the least likely — about 14 percent — to have legal representation because they’re more likely to be held in remote locations that are difficult to get to.


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