San Francisco’s interim mayor Mark Farrell unveiled plans to join with California Assemblyman Phil Ting to request $7 million in state funds be used to finance the legal counsel for every alien appearing before the U.S. Immigration Court in California.
The move comes in the wake of last week’s four-day operation conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in which hundreds of illegal immigrants, including those with previous criminal convictions, were arrested.
In addition, San Francisco hopes to take an additional $3.5 million in city funds every year for legal services for immigrants, bringing the total to $11.1 million every year.
Last year, California approved a $45 million fund to provide legal services to immigrants and illegal aliens, but that fund could get bigger if the state approves a proposal made in January by two Democratic lawmakers to increase it by $10 million.
While Farrell was quick to criticize the Trump administration for enforcing the Immigration and Nationality Act, he was less willing to offer details about the individuals who would be getting free legal counsel.
According to ICE, a total of 232 people were arrested in the San Francisco area and Northern California communities for violating U.S. immigration laws, including 180 who had prior convictions, had been issued a final order of removal, or had previously been deported. Furthermore, 115 of the individuals detained had prior felony convictions for serious or violent offenses, such as child sex crimes and assault.
The figure would have been higher, according to a statement issued by acting ICE Director Thomas Homan, if Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf had not publicly tipped off immigrants to pending ICE enforcement actions. Where Schaaf obtained advanced information on planned ICE enforcement actions is unclear.
Although California’s generosity with its taxpayers’ money is unique, a growing number of states and localities are appropriating public funds to give legal aid to those who have violated U.S. laws.
In Portland, Oregon, city commissioner Chloe Eudaly recently proposed spending $750,000 to ensure nearly every immigrant who faces deportation can have a lawyer, according to the Willamette Week. The proposal would carry a $1.5 million cost to the city of Portland and Multnomah County in the first year.
And in California’s Contra Costa County, the Board of Supervisors approved a rapid response hotline to give immigrants access to legal services or report Immigration and Customs Enforcement “raids in the county at any hour.”
Last April, the Seattle City Council unanimously backed a resolution use $1 million of taxpayers’ dollars on legal representation for local immigrants and refugees, including illegal aliens. Combined with funding from King County, the total is $1.5 million.
Santa Clara County in January voted to spend $1.5 million over two years to help defend illegal aliens facing deportation and Washington, D.C. last year announced a $500,000 program to support legal aid resources.
Even in the small New York city of Ithaca, politicians are gearing up to spend emergency funds to help illegal immigrants detained by ICE agents, according to The Ithaca Voice.
Whether in big cities or in small towns, is defending those individuals who knowingly violate immigration laws the best use of public resources?