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L.A. City Council Approves $2 Million Contribution To Legal Fund For Immigrants Facing Deportation

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The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to approve a $2 million contribution to the LA Justice Fund, which will provide legal representation to undocumented residents facing deportation. Unlike in criminal cases, defendants in deportation proceedings have no legal right to representation if they can't afford it.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to approve their own $3 million contribution to the fund. The $10 million fund, which was proposed in December by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer, and other L.A. city and county leaders, will also include substantial contributions from private philanthropic groups.

"Today’s City Council vote makes possible the allocation of our $2 million share of the L.A. Justice Fund, an extraordinary public-private partnership," Garcetti said in a press release emailed to LAist following the city council vote. "But the L.A. Justice Fund is about more than dollars — it means that more Angelenos will have legal protection, more families will stay whole, and more people will be able to build lives with the people they love, in the country they chose.”

“I’d like to thank my colleagues for approving the L.A. Justice Fund and for making it a priority in our budget," Councilmember Gil Cedillo also noted in the release."The fund falls in line with the Mayor’s efforts to defend Los Angeles and the council’s commitment to defend all its residents, regardless of immigration status. At the core of our democratic system is the belief that every person has the right to due process."

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There has been a contentious debate over whether or not the fund will have "carve-outs" that bar individuals with certain types of criminal records from accessing representation. Despite campaigns from immigrant rights groups arguing for universal access, the County voted to bar individuals with what the California Penal Code defines as “violent felonies" from accessing their $3 million contribution. The City opted for a compromise of sorts: carve-outs remain, but exceptions will be made in cases where the Defense Fund's lawyer deems that the individual has a "meritorious claim" with "justifiable extenuating circumstances."

“This carve-out reinforces the inequities that are already part of the criminal justice and immigration systems,” Andrés Kwon of the ACLU of Southern California previously told LAist.

Los Angeles now joins New York City, San Francisco, and other jurisdictions in providing legal aid to undocumented immigrants facing deportation.County Votes to Fund Legal Defense for Immigrants Fighting Deportation... On One Condition