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Should taxpayer money go to legal aid for immigrants facing deportation?

Immigration activists stage a civil disobedience action, blocking a street in front of Varick Street Detention Center, in New York, August 22, 2013. Leaders of immigrant rights group staged the protest against what they call the US unjust deportation policies and lawmakers delaying in passing an immigration reform for some 11 million people living in the US without papers.
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
Immigration activists stage a civil disobedience action, blocking a street in front of Varick Street Detention Center, in New York, August 22, 2013.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is considering allocating a million dollars for legal help to immigrants at risk of deportation.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to allocate $3 million over two years for legal help to immigrants at risk of deportation. 

The vote comes a day after Mayor Garcetti announced the creation of a $10 million fund to help local immigrants facing deportation proceedings. Half of that money would come from the city and county government, and half would come from philanthropic groups.

Garcetti said the move is in response to President-elect Trump's threat to increase deportations of immigrants who are in the country illegally. But not all taxpayers agree that that is the best use of taxpayer money.

Larry Mantle spoke to Angelica Salas of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and Jessica Vaughan for the Center for Immigration Studies. 

Interview Highlights:

On determining who is "criminal" and should be deported, and the impact of the L.A. Justice fund on providing counsel:

ANGELICA SALAS: In criminal court, independent of what crime you're being indicted for, you have representation if you can't pay for it. Now if we go to immigration courts, you don't have appointed counsel. . . So we want to make sure all individuals have access to counsel. 
The definition of who is criminal under President-elect Donald Trump is pretty expansive so we can't trust that a minor conviction wouldn't end up in deportation.

JESSICA VAUGHAN: The reality is that most of the individuals that will be receiving this taxpayer-funded counsel are not going to qualify to stay in the country, they don't have a route to legal presence here. And the immigration organizations that provide this counsel already are providing assistance to people that have the best shot of being able to stay. 

On undocumented immigrants contributing to taxes for the fund:

VAUGHAN: The taxpayer issue is a red herring. The most reputable studies show that people who are here illegally are not necessarily paying enough in taxes to cover all of the services they receive. I'm a taxpayer, too; it doesn't mean I get to have a publicly funded lawyer in traffic or divorce court. 

SALAS: In L.A. County, over 80 percent of our population has an immigrant in their household. That means a spouse or a child or an older child, all who are also taxpayers, are supporting these efforts, because they support and invest in their own families. 

On the fund's effect on separating families:

SALAS: Over 800,000 young people who are U.S. citizens have been deported with their parents. If you have a lawyer, who is helping with your case, you're going to be able to stay in the country. Most of the L.A. County residents have been here for over 20 years. You're gonna be able to stay with your family. . . and we're gonna have more just and efficient immigration courts. 

VAUGHAN: We're talking about people who are being deported because they've been identified as a priority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), they don't have much hope of saying no qualifications or eligibility to stay and having a lawyer is not gonna change that. 

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and this story has been updated.


Angelica Salas, Executive Director, CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles)

Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies at Center for Immigration Studies  

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