Coalition urges Governor Brown to approve the Legislature’s investment
(From Press Release)–Today, California lawmakers passed the state’s $183.2 billion budget, which allocates a historic $45 million investment in immigration services under the “One California” Immigration Services Funding program, which includes services for deportation defense. The California Coalition for Universal Representation urges Governor Brown to approve the investment to ensure more families living under the threat of deportation can remain together.
“This long-overdue investment in family unity is a significant step toward bringing a ray of fairness to an immigration system that is wrought with injustice, separation, and suffering,” said Jeannette Zanipatin, Legislative Staff Attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “We applaud the Legislature for recognizing the importance of keeping families together and communities whole.”
Currently, immigrants fighting their deportation are left to make their own case before judge unless they are able to afford legal representation. Immigration proceedings are notoriously complex and require extensive evidence gathering. Despite this, the federal government forces immigrants to go up against a trained federal prosecutor in court. Many of them have valid claims to remain in the country, but are deported nonetheless because they cannot afford an attorney. This includes unaccompanied minors, people seeking asylum, lawful permanent residents, and people who have lived in the country for decades and have strong ties to their communities. In California, 68 percent of immigrants in immigration detention do not have legal representation.
“The Constitution’s due process guarantee requires that our legal systems treat everyone fairly. In the immigration context, the federal government has tipped the scales of justice against immigrants fighting to remain in their communities, and work and contribute to our State,” said Layla Razavi, Policy Director for the California Immigrant Policy Center. “This is an incredible milestone towards balancing the scales and ensuring immigrants have a fair day in immigration court.”
A preliminary analysis of a similar deportation defense program in New York City found that effective legal representation significantly improves immigrants’ likelihood of winning their cases. Specifically, immigrants served by the program were 10 times more likely to win their immigration cases than those that were not. In California, where immigrants contribute over $3 billion in local and state taxes, a deportation defense program would help the state avoid the harmful economic and social costs of deportations.
“Deportations separate families, destabilize communities, and cost the State millions of dollars,” said Grace Meng, Senior Researcher with the U.S. Program of Human Rights Watch. “The State’s sound investment in counsel for immigrants facing deportation is an important first step to protect the due process rights, economic security, and well-being of all Californians. This isn’t only the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. We hope Governor Brown sees this.”
Studies have demonstrated that parents’ deportation has detrimental and long-lasting impacts on children’s immediate safety, economic security, well-being, and longer-term development. Additionally, when parents are deported, many children end up in the foster care system as a result, forcing states to shoulder these costs. In 2011, the state and county paid more than $9.5 million in unnecessary deportation-related foster care costs for Los Angeles County alone.
The California Coalition for Universal Representation advocates for the creation of a publicly funded program to provide appointed counsel to all indigent immigrants in deportation proceedings. The coalition includes the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the Central American Resource Center, Centro Legal de la Raza, the California Immigrant Policy Center, the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, the Center for Popular Democracy, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Human Rights Watch, the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the Immigrant Youth Coalition, Interfaith Communities for Peace and Justice, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the National Immigration Law Center, Pangea Legal Services, Public Counsel, the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, the Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, and the Vera Institute of Justice.