County counters federal moves against immigrants with a plan to help them out
Immigrants who find themselves in federal immigration court often cannot afford legal counsel and have to represent themselves, which means that many federally-ordered deportations go unchallenged.
Now the County is looking to step in the federal immigration issue, by declaring it will fund legal representation for immigrants who find themselves in front of an immigration judge.
Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large) said the effort to fund legal services for immigrants who live in the County is in reaction to President Trump’s stricter policy on immigration and his promise to deport more undocumented immigrants.
“Given that the federal government is continuing with its targeting of our communities, you know, we just felt that had to match that as aggressively as we could,” Riemer said.
While the resolution was only introduced on Tuesday, it has unanimous support among the Council. If passed, it would provide $373, 957 to the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, which provides legal services for those facing deportation.
As part of the potential deal the County asks for a couple of stipulations to the funds: that the money go toward legal services for County residents who are at least 200 percent below the poverty line. In addition, the money cannot go toward any person convicted of a major crime such as murder, rape or involvement with a criminal gang. Representatives from CAIR will screen the applicants.
State’s Attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy sent a note to the Council on the resolution saying there were not enough criminal offenses on the list that would exclude someone from County dollars for legal representation sighting an absence of domestic violence and gun crimes. Council member Roger Berliner (D-1) said he supports the resolution, but the list needs to be expanded to make sure criminals do not receive money from the County on their immigration court services.
“Almost every other major community that has dealt with this – New York, California – has also made a distinction between those who are here and otherwise law-abiding and those who actually committed crimes that are not okay,” Berliner said.
If passed, the County would join other jurisdictions across the country such as New York, California and King’s County, Washington who have put public funding towards supporting legal services for immigrants.
Since he was first elected president in November 2016, the County Council has taken numerous opportunities to condemn President Trump. But while many members of local government had harsh words for Trump and his immigration policies they conceded that there was nothing the County could do in changing how the federal government enforces immigration laws.
In August, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ordered two County high school graduates Diego Claros-Saravia and Lizandro Claros-Saravia who both had scholarships to play soccer in college. The brothers were deported to El Salvador after neither could afford an attorney to help with their immigration court proceedings.