To protect their immigrant residents under Trump, some cities are arming them with lawyers

There is, however, a general consensus that removals will rise sharply under his administration. Some states and local governments have made it clear that they won’t wait and see. Whether or not they can stop him, they’re preparing for a showdown.

One battleground will be immigration courts.

In California, where one in four residents was born outside the US and 27 percent of those immigrants are undocumented, Democratic officials introduced several initiatives that could vastly expand immigrants’ access to lawyers. Unlike in criminal courts, immigrants often face judges alone and there is no guarantee of representation, even when people are facing deportation.

Some cities want to change that.

“This is the first salvo, if you will, in the fight against Trump,” says San Francisco Supervisor David Campos.

He and the city’s public defender proposed a bill to allocate $5 million between the public defender’s office and community-based organizations in order to represent the city’s 44,000 undocumented people in courts.

His proposal closely mirrors the New York Immigrant Family Unit Program, which was created in 2013. Deportations rose sharply during the Obama administration. So far, that program has reduced the numbers of people being deported by New York courts.

Resources allocated from the San Francisco mayor’s budget to nonprofits have already been put to use, about half of the budgeted amount, Campos says. Funds for the public defender’s office must still be approved by the city’s Board of Supervisors.

“I think that there’s some reluctance [among legislators] to become too much of a lightning rod,” says Campos. “But, there’s a general sense that we need to do something.”

Campos, who is in his final term and will be replaced by his chief of staff, Hillary Ronen, on January 9, believes that the bill “might undergo modifications, but, it will go through.”

By Tiziana Rinaldi for PRI
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