A pro-immigrant march downtown in February
A pro-immigrant march downtown in February
Brian Feinzimer

A Year After Promise of Millions of Dollars to Defend Immigrants, the Cash Arrives

Nearly one year after Los Angeles leaders promised to get $10 million to help defend local immigrants ensnared in the deportation machinery of the Trump administration, most of the cash is here.

Organizers of the L.A. Justice Fund, a public-private alliance, this week announced that $7.4 million of the cash has been awarded to nonprofit legal service organizations "to bolster and expand access to legal representation for individuals facing immigration detention and deportation," according to a statement. The funding was distributed under two-year grants.

The L.A. Justice Fund was announced with great fanfare in December, with leaders like Mayor Eric Garcetti touting it as essential to the well-being of the estimated one in 10 undocumented Los Angeles County residents — "our family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers."

But by late spring, some pro-immigrant activists, including Carlos Amador, organizing director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, said it was taking too long for the money to materialize. In June, Amador called the need for immigrant defense funding "urgent" and said, "When officials want to act quickly, they find the means to do so."

The funding comes as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have targeted allegedly undocumented Angelenos at their homes, workplaces and children's schools. Suspects are shipped off to federal detention facilities in remote areas, like the town of Adelanto, where, critics say, communicating with family and legal representatives is so difficult it's almost off the table. Organizers of the Justice Fund say more than two-thirds of undocumented suspects do not have attorneys during deportation hearings.

The L.A. Legal Fund money, then, is necessary to get lawyers to folks who've been separated from family and jobs. In a statement this week, Garcetti described recipients as "the most vulnerable members of our communities — children and victims of domestic violence."

L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement that the fund is a reaction to "increased federal immigration enforcement."

"I am hopeful that L.A. County's $3 million contribution to the L.A. Justice Fund will make a world of difference in the lives of many immigrants who could not otherwise afford a lawyer, as they face deportation and being torn apart from their families and their lives here in Los Angeles. L.A. County will always protect, defend and fight for our immigrants," Solis said.

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