San Francisco Mayor OKs Funding For Immigrant Legal Defense

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has signed off on a plan to provide some funding for legal defense to immigrants through the public defender’s office, albeit at a far lower level than advocates had initially hoped for.

Lee has agreed to authorize the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office to use more than $200,000 in savings from the current year’s budget to hire three new staff attorneys and one paralegal for the defense of immigrants facing deportation in San Francisco’s immigration court, according to a letter sent to members of the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee Monday.

The approval falls somewhat short of what the committee’s recommendation for one head attorney, two staff attorneys and one paralegal, and far below the 10 attorneys, five paralegals and two clerks initially requested in legislation introduced by former Supervisor David Campos last fall.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi Monday said he was pleased by the decision but would still seek to expand the program in the coming years.

“These new positions will allow us to fight on behalf of approximately 150 immigrants locked in deportation detention and separated from their families,” Adachi said. “We look forward to increasing the number of people we can help by advocating for additional positions during the budget process.”

Campos’ push for public defender funding stalled out last year in the face of opposition from Lee, who has said he prefers to fund immigration defense work through community-based nonprofits.

The city appropriated an additional $1.5 million for such nonprofits following the November election, on top of a previous $3.8 million commitment. In addition, last week the mayor announced a fund, to be administered by the Interfaith Council, that will allow corporations and philanthropic organizations to donate money toward immigrant legal defense.

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