Vera Institute of Justice program offers free legal advice to immigrants facing deportation in 11 cities and counties, Mother Jones reports.
The program provides funding and resources to help train legal service providers.
“It’s inhumane for people to go to court with no lawyer,” said Omar Siagha, a green card holder who was able to win his case through the program. “Everyone deserves a chance to explain their case to a judge.”
“Unlike in criminal court cases, immigrants generally do not have the right to a free court-appointed attorney during removal proceedings and often have to bear the cost on their own,” the Mother Jones story reported. It added that studies have shown that access to legal representation can drastically improve an immigrant’s chances of winning relief from deportation or release from detention.
Though deportations have slowed, immigration agents have made 43 percent more arrests since Donald Trump became president, compared to the same time last year, the magazine reported, referring to a Washington Post story.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also attempted to speed up deportation and reduce immigration court backlogs, reported Mother Jones.
Vera has started soliciting competitive applications for the network from Oakland and Alameda counties, Sacramento and Santa Ana in California, as well as Atlanta, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Baltimore and Prince George’s County in Maryland; Chicago, Ill.; Columbus, Ohio, and Dane County, Wisconsin.
With 343 homicides in 2017, Baltimore “had the highest murder rate in its history, and by far the highest among the nation’s 30 largest cities,” according to The New York Times 1-17-18
Other cities have taken on their own efforts to provide funds for legal defense, the magazine reported. Seattle’s city council unanimously passed a resolution to allocate $1 million to a defense fund for immigrants and refugees, and increased that fund to $1.5 million in August with the inclusion of King County.
Earlier this summer, city and county officials in Los Angeles also approved an L.A. Justice Fund that, with help from outside donors, would provide up to $10 million for legal defense to immigrants.
“Immigrants are our friends, neighbors and co-workers, but new enforcement tactics are breaking up families and weakening our neighborhoods and our city,” wrote Elizabeth Brown, Columbus City Council member, in a press release.