Lawmakers in Seattle have approved $1.75 million in a legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation.
The money – which will come from taxpayers – will be used to defend people who are forced to appear in immigration court. It will help pay for attorneys and related expenses.
What happened? The Seattle City Council voted to create the $1 million fund and the Metropolitan King County Council also approved another $750,000 for “immigrant and refugee programs,” $300,000 of which will be used in illegal immigrants’ legal defense.
The money will be funneled to several non-profit groups like the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, who will do the legal work, the Seattle Times reports.
Why now? The allocation is a direct rebuke to President Donald Trump and his promise to step up deportations of criminal illegal aliens.
Breitbart: Seattle Doling Legal Aid For Illegal Aliens
The Seattle Times: Seattle, King County councils approve $1.3 million in legal aid for immigrants
Q13Fox.com: $750,000 defense fund for immigrants, refugees proposed by King County Council
Because immigration court cases are civil proceedings, the defendants aren’t guaranteed a right to an attorney, so the money will pay for a quasi-public defender.
How can they justify the spending? Councilwoman M. Lorena González, who proposed the legal fund said that more than one-third of immigrants in Seattle and 90 percent in Tacoma with court cases lack legal representation.
This money is separate from the $250,000, taxpayer funded allocation to help refugees “navigate life under Trump,” as the Seattle Times puts it, “with a focus on children in the city’s public schools.”
How tough have these immigration courts become? The move from this “Sanctuary City” comes as new direction from Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is resulting in the deportation in “nearly every immigration case.”
The new directives vastly broaden the pool of undocumented immigrants considered for deportation. The result has been a jarring shift in which the government seeks deportation in nearly every immigration case, said Clarel Cyriaque, a defense attorney who represents Haitians in South Florida. Dozens of his clients were under consideration for prosecutorial discretion based on their years in the U.S., steady employment and clean records.
“That’s off the table now,” he said. “As soon as Trump took office, everything stopped. They got new marching orders. Their prime directive now is enforcement, as opposed to exercising discretion that would help good people.”
Homeland Security says its attorneys can still practice discretion on a case-by-case basis. But a statement released after Trump signed his executive order on immigration in January states, “With extremely limited exceptions, DHS will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement.”
These legal aid funds with taxpayer dollars have also been set up in Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Chicago.