In summary

For the first time ever, the proposed state budget includes millions of dollars to help undocumented immigrants fight deportation.

For the first time ever, the proposed state budget includes millions of dollars to help undocumented immigrants fight deportation.

This comes at a time of heightened fear in immigrant communities over recent raids and increased immigration enforcement under President Trump that appear to be going beyond just individuals convicted of crimes.

Gov. Brown’s revised budget, released today, allocates an additional $15 million—for a total of $30 million—to help cover the cost of immigration-related legal services including, for the first time, deportation defense.

According to Brown’s budget office, the first half of the funding includes contracts and grants for nonprofits that provide services for those seeking naturalization,  deferred action and other legal remedies. The additional funds are to bolster those services, as well as to provide help for immigrants facing deportation. The budget also includes $3 million to provide unaccompanied undocumented minors with legal counsel.

“It’s one of those things that makes an incredible difference for an attorney to represent you in a deportation case,” said Daisy Vieyra, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of California.“This is a really heartening signal from Governor Brown’s administration, that he sees the value in providing a service like this.”

In recent years, the state has provided $15 million annually for naturalization and deferred-action legal help for immigrants brought to the country as children. Last year it provided a total of $30 million for these services plus $3 million for legal help for unaccompanied minors.

“We know the need is going to be really high and this is where California can make a difference,” Vieyra said. “it’s about all immigrants and given the federal government’s new outlook on immigration it could make an incredible difference in California.”

President Trump has focused on immigration and deportation since his campaign. “You see what’s happening at the border, all of a sudden for the first time, we’re getting gang members out, we’re getting drug lords out. We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump said after his first month in office. “And they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation, because what has been allowed to come into our country when you see gang violence that you’ve read about like never before, and all of the things, much of that is people that are here illegally. And they are rough, and they’re tough, but they’re not tough like our people. So we are getting them out.” Politifact labeled those comments “partially accurate.”

California continues to push back.

“Legal counsel in deportation proceedings is the last line of defense to prevent the permanent exile of immigrants that are deeply rooted in our lives and communities,” Laura Polstein, an attorney at Centro Legal de la Raza, said in a statement.

Today the majority of immigrants facing deportation lack legal representation. A study by The California Coalition for Universal Representation found that undocumented immigrants who have legal representation are five times more successful in winning their cases than those who do not have lawyers.

Vieyra said immigration advocates would still like to see a total of $30 million solely for deportation defense in the future.*

Proposed legislation that aim to get funds for deportation include:

  • SB 6,  by Democratic Sen. Ben Hueso of San Diego, asks for $12 million in funds for defense.
  • AB 386, by Democrat Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher of San Diego, seeks funding to provide representation to veterans who have been deported.

The governor’s revised budget also includes $6.5 million more for the state Justice Department to provide for additional work and manpower to challenge the federal government on issues such as the Trump administration’s threatened retaliation against sanctuary cities.

* (Note: An earlier version of the story stated that immigration advocates want an additional $30 million for deportation defense. It’s been corrected to reflect Vieyra’s observation that they actually desire a total of $30 million for this.)

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Gary Reed with any commentary questions: gary@calmatters.org, (916) 234-3081.

Elizabeth Aguilera

Elizabeth Aguilera is an award-winning multimedia journalist who covers health and social services for CalMatters. She joined CalMatters in 2016 from Southern California Public Radio/KPCC 89.3 where she...