SF Board to consider additional funds for immigrant legal defense

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN)— The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is set to consider additional funding to provide legal representation to immigrants fighting deportation, but the request falls short of what is being sought by advocates.
The Board of Supervisors' budget and finance committee on Wednesday voted to forward a $1.5 million budget appropriation for immigration-related services to the full board for a vote.
The appropriation of real estate transfer tax funding requested by Mayor Ed Lee will help increase funding for community-based nonprofits that already assist immigrants.
However, the funding request does not include funds sought by immigrant advocates for legal representation for immigrants through the San Francisco Public Defender's Office.
Supervisor David Campos in November introduced legislation that would have provided around $5 million a year toward legal representation for immigrants. About half of that amount would have gone toward the public defender's office, which works directly with immigrants facing deportation due to criminal proceedings.
The request was made in response to statements by President-elect Donald Trump, who says he plans to deport an estimated 3 million immigrants with criminal records and withhold federal funding from cities like San Francisco that have sanctuary city policies.
However, Lee has said he favors funding immigrant legal services through existing nonprofits and instead asked Public Defender Jeff Adachi to seek the increased funding in the next budget cycle.
Francisco Ugarte, an immigration specialist for the public defender's office, told the committee that the proposed funding would not be sufficient to provide representation to immigrants who are being detained.
Ugarte said that at any given time, there are around 1,500 immigrants facing deportation being detained, and more than 85 percent do not have attorneys.
"We believe that San Francisco should follow the example of New York and New Jersey, which, through their public defender agencies, provide legal representation to all people in custody facing removal or deportation," Ugarte said. "This is the only humane position for us to take as a Sanctuary City and a city that stands for due process and fairness for all."