Last year Seattle council member Lorena González championed a $1 million legal defense fund to help undocumented immigrants in the city fight deportation. Now, González says she wants to double that funding.
González is proposing a $2 million legal defense fund next year to be paid for through a public-private partnership, she told PubliCola. She said she wants to launch a campaign and work with the Seattle Immigrant and Refugee Commission, which advises the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.
González made the announcement Thursday night during an Asian and Pacific Islander candidate forum, hosted by API advocacy groups, The International Examiner, and Northwest Asian Weekly.
González had asked Pat Murakami, her challenger, what her plans were to help immigrants and refugees during her first 100 days in office. Murakami said she would be out talking to the communities to hear what they want her to do and vowed to represent them. In a rebuttal, González listed her plans that included the legal defense fund, public safety for immigrants when they're accessing services, and language access at the city.
"I have been working on this issue," González said. "We need to make sure that we are doing everything at the city, from our surveillance technology, to what questions we ask, to how we deliver services to make sure that you are safe and that your families are safe."
The fund this year worked as a grant program through the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, which distributed the funds to nonprofit organizations that help undocumented immigrants fight their civil cases. Jorge Baron, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, in April said one deportation case typically costs $5,000 to $10,000 for his organization to defend—by that measure the nonprofit can defend 200 to 400 people with a $2 million fund.
The Pew Research Center in 2014 estimated there were 250,000 undocumented immigrants living in the state. Last year, the Seattle Immigration Court completed 2,979 cases—and during the 2016 fiscal year, Seattle’s immigration court had 7,229 pending cases and Tacoma’s had 1,208 pending cases, according to the city.