The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) issued a report Tuesday that indicates at least $5.6 million of state and local American taxpayer funds will be used to pay the fees of lawyers representing illegal immigrants fighting deportation actions.
The amount reported by the group was described as a “conservative estimate” based on a review of several local governments that partnered with non-governmental organizations to provide legal counsel to noncitizen illegal migrants.
IRLI executive director and general counsel Dale L. Wilcox issued a statement that said the programs are insulting to every citizen and a legal resident of the country. He added that American law provides that noncitizens do not have the right to legal counsel in civil proceedings. Wilcox went on to say that the U.S. nonetheless has radical open borders organizations handing over a legal bill to unknowing citizens.
The report spotlights the increasing local government efforts to fight against federal immigration law enforcement and how taxpayers are being forced to provide the financing. IRLI’s report also questions whether there is meaningful supervision of the legal aid centers representing the illegal immigrants because of the joint funding and management with outside, non-governmental organizations.
The IRLI report focused on the SAFE Initiative, administered by the progressive nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice (VIJ). IRLI reviewed 22 local governments that partnered with VIJ, which provides legal help to illegal immigrants as its primary mission.
Philadelphia city officials reportedly told IRLI they had no oversight of its deportation defense program funded with taxpayer money. The city’s program is run in partnership with VIJ and is named the Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project. Philadelphia responded to public records requests by saying it had no control over or access to records related to the project’s actions. The project received $100,000 of city funding when it began and is scheduled to receive $200,000 in additional taxpayer funding later this year.
Lora Ries with the Heritage Foundation said that public funding of deportation legal defenses contradicts the Immigration and Nationality Act. That law says that an alien being deported has the privilege of obtaining legal representation, but “at no expense to the government.” Ries said there is no constitutional right to an attorney in removal cases because they are civil, not criminal. She pointed out that American citizens have no right to appoint attorneys in civil cases.