Supervisors Seek To Expand Immigrant Legal Defense Funding

Supervisors Seek To Expand Immigrant Legal Defense Funding
Attendees at a 2013 rally for immigration reform. | Photo: Annette Bernhardt/Flickr
By Bay City News - Published on January 23, 2018.

Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer and Hillary Ronen today announced legislation that would increase funding for immigrant legal defense through the public defender's office and nonprofits in response to threats of a crackdown in the Bay Area by immigration authorities.

The legislation calls for the city to provide $1.2 million in the current fiscal year, including $462,968 for 14 new positions in the public defender's immigration defense unit and $431,250 for nonprofits providing legal aid to immigrants.

The legislation was introduced in the wake of news reports last week that federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials plan widespread raids targeting more than 1,500 people in San Francisco and other Northern California cities.

Fewer today said President Donald Trump's administration has already made it clear it will follow through on its anti-immigrant rhetoric by ending protective status for hundreds of thousands of refugees, stepping up funding and staffing for ICE, raiding 7-Eleven stores across the country and ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allowing immigrants brought to the US as children to work and attend college. 

"This is the time to put our money where our mouths are," Fewer said.

The additional funding would increase staffing in the public defender's immigrant defense legal defense unit from the current level of four attorneys and two support staff to eight attorneys, two investigators, two court specialists, one legal assistant and one senior process clerk.

That unit, which focuses on the approximately 1,500 immigrants in detention in San Francisco Immigration Court, was just created last March after Fewer reintroduced legislation originally drafted by then-Supervisor David Campos. 

The unit has so far taken on 75 cases, represented clients in 50 bond hearings and had a 60 percent success rate, according to Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

In addition, community nonprofits funded by the city through the Immigrant Legal Defense Collaborative have represented more than 800 people since 2014.

The legislation introduced today includes also $201,250 for this fiscal year to support an existing community hotline for immigration issues, rapid response network and educational workshops.

Officials said the Rapid Response Hotline, which is staffed 24 hours a day, has been flooded with more than 500 calls since last week due to the reports of impending raids.

by Sara Geiser