LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Board of Supervisors voted to contribute $1 million to a legal aid fund for people at risk of deportation and confirmed that anyone convicted of a violent felony will not be eligible to benefit from the fund.
The eligibility requirements for the county’s share of the L.A. Justice Fund — specifically the prohibition of convicted felons — drew protests from immigration advocates in April and forced the board to cancel a planned vote on the matter.
Civil rights advocates opposed to the exclusion said it amounted to unequal representation and ignored the fact that immigrants often “plead up” to more serious crimes based on legal advice that the crimes are “immigration-safe.”
Though the board and other contributors to the L.A. Justice Fund have cited the threat of new immigration policies of President Donald Trump, protesters accused county officials of playing into Trump’s framework of “good” and “bad” immigrants.
The board’s vote on Tuesday, June 20, focused on finalizing an agreement with the California Community Foundation to act as the county’s intermediary in granting aid. That agreement included an exhibit spelling out the eligibility criteria. In addition to prohibiting those with a felony conviction and reserving aid for low-income immigrants, the county will prioritize help for:
— individuals with community ties to Los Angeles County, such as family members who are U.S. citizens;
— heads of households with one or more dependent family members;
— unaccompanied children and young adults who arrived as children;
— individuals with protection-based claims, such as refugees seeking asylum; and
— victims of crime, domestic violence and human trafficking.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said an estimated 7,000 county residents face deportation proceedings without a lawyer every year.
“Today, the board took a significant step to create a safety net for immigrants, one that is pro-family, pro-economic growth and stability, and pro- civil and human rights,” Solis said.
The L.A. Justice Fund is aiming to raise $10 million. The county intends to contribute an additional $2 million in fiscal year 2018-19 and the city of Los Angeles has tentatively committed $2 million, an amount approved by a council committee.