For Immediate Release // Excuse Cross Posting
June 23rd, 2017
LOS ANGELES COALITION FOR UNIVERSAL REPRESENTATION CELEBRATES CITY COUNCIL’S ENDORSEMENT OF LA JUSTICE FUND
New $10 Million Fund Provides Desperately Needed Help to Immigrants Facing Imminent Threat of Deportation
Los Angeles – Today, the LA City Council voted overwhelmingly (11-1) in support of the LA Justice Fund, a public-private partnership to provide deportation defense for immigrants facing the threat of removal. The City Council approved $2 million for the first two years of the program, to complement $3 million from the County and $5 million from private foundations.
“The LA Justice Fund is an incredibly important commitment from the City, County and private foundations at a critical moment,” said Judy London, Directing Attorney of the Immigrants’ Rights Project of Public Counsel. “Every day we receive calls from people whose families are being ripped apart by the brutal actions of ICE agents in our community. I hope that tomorrow we will be able to say, ‘you don’t have to walk this road alone.’”
The Los Angeles Coalition for Universal Representation – a coalition of dozens of legal, faith-based, labor and community organizations – lauded the LA City Council’s vote today.
“Our community is under attack by harsh anti-immigrant forces at the highest levels of the federal government,” said Carlos Amador of the California Immigrant Policy Center. “The LA Justice Fund is the first step from Los Angeles to say, ‘we have your back; you are not in this alone.’”
“I am glad that the City of Los Angeles is working to make sure that no one is left to fight the government’s deportation force alone—as I am doing now,” said Phal Sok, an organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition who is currently fighting his deportation without a lawyer. “I have lived here since I was 61 days old. Due to mistakes I made in my youth, the US government is trying to deport me to a country I do not know. Until I walked into immigration court to defend myself—alone—I believed that due process was a fundamental right at the foundation of this country. While there is more work to do, the LA Justice Fund is a critical first step.”
The Coalition particularly recognizes the important comments made by City Council members in support of this initiative. “We applaud the leadership of Council Members Cedillo, Harris Dawson, Bonin and Blumenfield,” said Emi MacLean, staff attorney for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “In their words and actions today, they recognized that everyone has value and must be defended, that we are a society that should believe in second chances, and that we must be united in the face of efforts to divide and deport our community members.”
“Deportation is exile,” said Mario Martinez, a U.S. Army veteran who is in removal proceedings based on a 2009 conviction. “This is the only home I’ve ever had, and all my family are American citizens. We need a fully inclusive LA Justice Fund to be able to help all people who need legal representation.”
“The City’s bold action today will help ensure that all veterans facing deportation on their own get the legal representation that is so vital to even have a fair chance in immigration court,” said Andres Kwon, of the ACLU of Southern California. “The County can learn from the City’s strong actions.”
The City of Los Angeles now joins dozens of cities and counties across the country that are establishing legal defense funds for immigrants facing deportation. These legal justice funds around the country are increasingly being established on a universal model.
"We have learned from experience that it is not simply unjust, but also inefficient and ineffective, to create strict eligibility criteria that limit access to something that should be a fundamental right," said Lindsay Toczylowski, Executive Director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center, the largest legal organization representing detained immigrants in Southern California.