(UPI) — Eleven U.S. cities and counties announced Thursday that they will join an effort to guarantee an attorney to undocumented immigrants facing deportation.
The Safety and Fairness for Everyone Cities Network is a multi-jurisdiction network that aims to “provide publicly-funded representation for people facing deportation,” according to the Vera Institute of Justice, which is launching the effort.
The cities and counties joining the SAFE Cities Network include: Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dane County, Wis.; Oakland/Alameda County, Calif.; Prince George’s County, Md.; Sacramento; San Antonio, Texas; and Santa Ana, Calif.
The Vera Institute said each jurisdiction was selected by a competitive request for proposals process.
“All selected jurisdictions demonstrated their commitment to deportation defense by investing public dollars, which were matched by a catalyst fund administered by Vera,” the organization said.
“Common sense immigration policies like those embodied by the SAFE Cities Network ensure that all people, regardless of background, income, and history, are guaranteed a fair day in court,” said Vera President Nicholas Turner. “Not only does such public funding for indigent immigrants facing deportation maintain trust within our communities, it ultimately increases public safety and keeps deserving families together.”
Each jurisdiction will provide different amounts of money to their respective immigrant public defense funds. For example, Baltimore officials secured $100,000 to the effort, Columbus will put up $185,000 and Chicago set aside $1.3 million earlier this year.
It’s not clear what the total cost would be to provide public defense attorneys to all undocumented immigrants facing deportation, but an evaluation of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project found that immigrants represented by an attorney were able to stay in the United States in 48 percent of cases, compared to only 4 percent for those without an attorney.
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