We need the LA Justice Fund

06/19/2017 12:53 pm ET

Hard-working, honest people who have been contributing to our society – undocumented immigrants – are now suffering the consequences of a hostile, anti-immigrant climate led by Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress who defend him. This is unacceptable, unfair, and bigoted -- and I’m fighting to prevent families from being torn apart.

Unfortunately, too many in our undocumented population find that the cost of legal representation is too expensive. According to a recent study, only 6% of unrepresented immigrants are successful in their deportation cases – but immigrants who have an attorney succeed five times as often.

We have to do something.

The mission of the L.A. Justice Fund (LAJF) – a collaborative $10 million effort between Los Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles, and outside partners – is to provide legal representation to undocumented fathers, mothers, and children, giving them a fighting chance to stay in this country that has become their home.

The County’s contribution to the LAJF – $3 million – will be decided next Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors. Sadly, the implementation of this effort had been delayed because some demand that the funds help everyone equally; for example, both an undocumented immigrant without a criminal record and one who was convicted of a violent rape.

The LAJF has limited funds, and we cannot help everyone. After Tuesday’s action at the Board of Supervisors, those convicted of violent felonies — which includes 22 specific crimes ranging from rape, armed robbery, murder, and even the use of weapons of mass destruction – will not be able to access the County’s contribution to the LAJF.

This is the same limitation included in SB 6, a bill in Sacramento that seeks to create a similar fund at the state level. Additionally, only the $3 million allocated by the County would be restricted – our actions next Tuesday will not affect how the additional $7 million, funded from other sources, is spent.

It makes sense to give priority to immigrants whose cases are most likely to succeed. This is a reasonable measure when taxpayer funds are limited and must be put to the best use.

My position on this issue has been consistent: I refuse to buy into the racist belief that a minority of undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a felony are the same as those who live and work in this country, trying to create a better life for themselves and their families. That is something this President does. But we are better than that.

The Trump Administration is not waiting, and neither can we. This cannot be delayed any longer: the legal assistance the L.A. Justice Fund will provide is desperately needed.

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