The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a motion to extend the L.A. Justice Fund — a public-private partnership providing legal representation to immigrants in deportation proceedings — for one more year.
Supervisors Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn recommended that the county maintain its commitment, estimating that immigrants make up 44% of the county’s workforce and pay billions in federal taxes annually.
“When an individual is detained by federal immigration authorities, they are cruelly separated from their families and their communities and face the harsh possibility of being deported to their country of origin, even though many consider L.A. County their one and only home,” Solis said. “L.A. County will always stand with immigrants and asylum seekers.”
Immigrants represented by an attorney during proceedings are more than five times more likely to get positive immigration relief than those without an attorney, according to Solis.
“Since its creation, the LA Justice Fund has ensured hundreds of families have legal representation in deportation proceedings,” Hahn said.
“I wish that we didn’t need the L.A. Justice Fund, but amid continued attacks on our immigrant communities, extending this fund is critical to providing these families basic due process protections while we work to keep these communities whole.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger voted against the extension, saying she couldn’t justify the obligation at a time of such great uncertainty and financial stress for the county.
“I empathize with the plight of thousands of individuals impacted by the broken immigration system,” Barger said. “Given the enormous financial constraints placed by COVID-19, I have serious concerns about obligating funding — we don’t know where it is going to come from.”
Barger said it should be the federal government’s obligation to bear the costs of illegal immigration and focus on a comprehensive immigration policy.
Hahn, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, said that resolution could be a long time coming.
“In the meantime, I believe this justice fund is important,” Hahn said. “I think it is an absolute appropriate use of our funds.”
The vote came on the same day President Donald Trump issued a memo directing U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to provide information on the census that would allow immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization to be excluded from the 2020 count.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas issued a statement in reaction to the administration’s move, invoking Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who died Friday.
“I believe it was the Congressman John Lewis that said, `When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up.’ We cannot remain silent at this attempt to undercount communities of color that are already disproportionately underserved,” Ridley-Thomas said.
“Racism and xenophobia are at the heart of this executive order, and it must not be allowed to stand.”
The L.A. Justice Fund is a collaboration established in 2017 between the county, the city of Los Angeles, the California Community Foundation and the Weingart Foundation. The county contributed $3 million to the fund.
Since then, the L.A. Justice Fund has exceeded its initial goals and received $7.4 million, according to Solis and the CCF website.
Their work has included:
— conducting 1,730 consultations and referrals;
— representing 546 individuals, including 181 children; and
— reaching positive outcomes in 62% of cases.
The current pilot will end June 30, 2021, when a second phase of the program is expected to begin.
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