LA City Council passes Justice Fund

LOS ANGELES — The City Council approved a measure that would pave the way for a Justice Fund to help those in deportation proceedings.

The city council passed the Los Angeles Justice Fund in an 11-to-1 vote.

The vote now puts into motion a fund that will be used to help give legal representation to low income undocumented immigrant facing deportation proceedings.

The city’s vote comes days after the county’s approval.

“We’re ready to use it. So we’re happy for our kababayans who will benefit from this diba. Ang dami dami tayo,” said Myrla Baldonado, from the Pilipino Workers Center.

Immigrant rights activists and service providers have been making their rounds with elected officials, with many Filipinos testifying the need for the measure.

“Legal representation is crucial to a fair proceeding, the federal government gets a trained prosecutor representing in every case, and immigration law is complex,” said Anthony Ng from the Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

The fund was announced by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti earlier this year.

Part of the delay in the implementation included city officials figuring out if convicted criminal aliens should be allowed to access the fund.

“I will not support our money going towards representation of people who have been convicted of horrible crimes on others,” said Nury Martinez from the LA City Council.

The final vote included language that would allow only for immigrants with meritous cases to access the funds.

While it does not completely disqualify individuals with past criminal convictions, the fund will take each person as a case by case basis.

“The carve out was soft. Meron ilileave out, pero they have the opportunity and it gives the powers to the attorney na mag decide Kung isang client can access the funds or be represented. That’s good,” said Baldonado.

The fund sets aside $2 million in city funds, and an additional $3 million from the county.

Philanthropic groups will help make up the rest of the $10 million fund, which will be managed by the California Community Foundation.

As the lone dissenting vote, Councilman Mitchell Englander explained that the money could be used for other needs.

“I’m just not sure for me, if this is the best use of city funds,” he said.

In recent months, several cities across the US have set up defense funds to help undocumented immigrants facing deportation proceedings.

The Justice funds are not just for hiring lawyers. Advocates have explained that it can also be used for other costs associated with cases, from obtaining documents, to even transportation.

It’s more help for low income Angelenos navigating the legal system.


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