Seventeen non-profits in Los Angeles County have received $7.45 million from the LA Justice Fund to provide legal representation to immigrants facing deportation.
The Los Angeles Justice Fund is a $10 million partnership between LA County, the city of LA, the Weingart Foundation, and the California Community Foundation. (A total of $2 million came from the city, $3 million from the county, and $5 million from philanthropic organizations.)
The grantees include Public Counsel, the Loyola Immigrant Justice Legal Clinic, the USC Immigration Clinic, Southwestern Law School’s Immigration Law Clinic, and the Vera Institute of Justice’s Center on Immigration and Justice.
“In the face of increased federal immigration enforcement, Los Angeles is stepping up with the LA Justice Fund to provide support, hope and access to justice for our immigrant communities,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “I am hopeful that L.A. County’s $3 million dollar contribution to the L.A. Justice Fund will make a world of difference in the lives of many immigrants who could not otherwise afford a lawyer, as they face deportation and being torn apart from their families and their lives here in Los Angeles.”
While many welcomed the creation of the LA Justice Fund, there was pushback over the program’s exclusion of people who with violent felonies on their records. LA County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and community advocates argued that the fund should not have a blanket exclusion of people convicted of violent crimes.
The fund will make children, sex trafficking victims, and other vulnerable populations the top priority to receive legal services.
“The most vulnerable members of our communities — children and victims of domestic violence — should not have to face even greater risk because they cannot afford legal representation,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “We want to help keep families together by giving people in need access to the protections in our legal system, and that’s what the L.A. Justice Fund will do.”
A Win for Undocumented Juveniles: Fed. Court Sides with ACLU Against Trump Administration, Says Teens Spirited Away to Detention Center Must Get Hearing Before Judge
Three immigrant juveniles arrested and shipped to a detention center across the nation without their parents’ knowledge won legal relief last week, thanks to the ACLU, Cooley LLP, and Holly S. Cooper, co-director of the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic.
Back in August, the legal team filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s efforts to incarcerate and deport three teenage boys based on unproven claims of involvement with the transnational MS-13 gang.
Last week, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the feds to provide the teens with the reasons for their arrests, as well as any evidence against them, and a hearing in front of a judge.
Police and immigration officers arrested three teens and transported them across the country to detention facilities in Northern California without notifying the boys’ parents, and without giving them a chance to contest the charges, according to the ACLU.
The 17-year-olds, who had immigrated to the US as unaccompanied minors, lived with their families in Suffolk County, New York, where they were arrested.
A day after the court’s preliminary injunction, one of the plaintiffs, identified as F.E., was released and returned to his family after spending five months in a detention facility.
An officer arrested F.E. as the teen walked home with a friend after playing soccer. F.E. was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct. The boy said he was play-fighting with his friend. F.E.’s family was able to bail him out of jail because his alleged crime was only an infraction, but days after his release, F.E. was arrested by the same officer. The officer told F.E. that he was being arrested because “you aren’t legal. I need to give you to immigration. You’ll probably be deported.” F.E. was moved between a facility in Shenandoah, Virginia, to one in Fairfield, California, and then to another ORR facility in Lincolndale New York.
“These boys were torn from their families. The Trump Administration wrongfully denied them any opportunity to respond to the charges against them, and the court’s order recognizes their rights to a fair and impartial hearing when they are threatened with deprivation of their liberty,” said Julia Harumi Mass, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “The federal government cannot arrest and indefinitely detain a person, let alone a child, simply because a police officer reports that they wear a certain color shirt or visit a pizza parlor frequented by a known gang member.”
The preliminary injunction applies to a class of undocumented children who traveled to the US as unaccompanied minors, were detained by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and then released, and face arrest by the Department of Homeland Security based on allegations of gang affiliation.
The Trump administration has designated MS-13 the US’s public enemy number one (although experts disagree). Earlier this month, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that 267 immigrants labeled as MS-13 gang members or associates had been arrested in September and October, the Nation’s Julianne Hing reports.
ICE called the roundup “Operation Raging Bull.” The feds teamed up with local law enforcement, using controversial gang databases to target people for deportation.
But gang databases like California’s CalGang are error-prone.
“CalGang is an ineffective tool full of inaccuracies that result in violations of people’s rights,” Peter Bibring, director of police practices for the ACLU of California told WitnessLA.
The inadequate oversight and faulty system “have a real impact on people’s lives when law enforcement relies on such a flawed system for judgments about prosecutions, employment and even deportation,” Bibring said.
A 2016 audit from State Auditor Elain M. Howle, which found major errors in the database, and revealed a serious lack of necessary state oversight of a system that does not adequately protect the rights of the more than 150,000 people listed in the database.
According to the Nation, an ICE agent named Jason Molina told CBS about an Operation Raging Bull raid on an alleged gang member whose only known crime was being undocumented. Agents did not have a criminal warrant, and only found only pellet guns and BB guns during the raid, but were still able to arrest the man based on his immigration status, according to Molina.
“The purpose of classifying him as a gang member or a gang associate is because once he goes in front of an immigration judge, we don’t want him to get bail, because the whole point of this operation is to get these known gang members off the street,” Molina told CBS’s Margaret Brennan.
Oakland Police Under Fire for Other Questionable Immigration Enforcement Tactics
In Oakland, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick is under fire for sending three officers to conduct traffic control operations for a federal immigration raid in August. Oakland is a designated sanctuary city. Kirkpatrick has maintained that the raid was human-trafficking related, but only one man was arrested, and not for trafficking. Federal immigration officials have also reported that the man, Santos de Leon, was not picked up for any crime, let alone one as serious trafficking, and is only facing civil deportation proceedings.
Robert Gammon of the East Bay Express suggests that the “human trafficking” allegations that prompted the controversial Oakland raid may have something to do with the feds’ expanded meaning of “human trafficking,” that includes “harboring” undocumented immigrants. Gammon points to a recent “human trafficking” case in which the feds accused a man of holding undocumented workers against their will. In that case, prosecutors only charged the man with hiding (“harboring”) his employees from immigration agents. There is no mention in the indictment that the accused employer held his workers against their will.
On December 5, an Oakland City Council committee will consider a proposal from Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan that would block OPD from conducting traffic control assistance for federal immigration operations.
Image: Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office – City and county leaders announce LA Justice Fund.