Cities Giving Free Legal Representation To Those Facing Deportation
Above Photo: Image via Getty.
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To say that the current administration has been pushing extremely harsh immigration policies would be putting it mildly. Trump even went so far as to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was intended to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children. The country has experienced sweeping raids that have imperiled many, and as such, American cities are now working together to protect people from dangerous federal policies.
The Vera Institute of Justice has just awarded grant money to support an enterprise called the SAFE Cities Network. Cities in eight states have banded together to build a fund that will pay for legal representation for immigrants facing deportation. All cities in the network had to apply to the Vera Institute with a proposal to prove they are committed to spending public dollars on deportation defense, which will then be matched by the institute.
In conjunction with the announcement of the SAFE Cities Network, the Vera Institute released a new study that shows having access to a lawyer makes all the difference when it comes to keeping families together. The study highlights the “common misperception” that only illegal immigrants face deportation proceedings; in reality, many people are vulnerable to being thrust into the deeply complicated world of immigration law:
In fact, any non-citizen—including lawful permanent residents (green card holders), refugees, and people who entered legally on visas can be placed in deportation proceedings.
And to put some numbers to it, the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project reported that only 4% of cases had a “successful outcome” without an attorney. The NYUFUP has worked to get universal access to representation for immigration cases, and since implementing that measure, has seen a 48% successful outcome rate, which is an 1100% increase.
As of now, this is the list of cities in the SAFE network:
- Atlanta GA
- Austin TX
- Baltimore MD
- Chicago IL
- Columbus OH
- Dane County WI
- Oakland/Alameda County CA
- Prince George’s County MD
- Sacramento CA
- San Antonio TX
- Santa Ana CA
SAFE Cities will ensure that anyone who meets their financial eligibility requirement receives a lawyer during deportation hearings, as long as they are within one of those districts associated with the network. It isn’t immediately clear how lawyers will be connected with the people who need them, but the Vera Institute writes that they will “provide technical expertise and support, including assistance in identifying and training legal service providers, providing opportunities to share best practices with other jurisdictions, and providing data collection and analyses for the purpose of evaluating the network’s impact.”
You can also look to see where the jurisdictions supporting the initiative are on a map, and try contacting them here. Due process is a founding ideal of the United States, and these cities are working to make sure it extends to everyone living here.