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As L.A. Proposes $10 Million Defense Fund For Immigrants, Leaders In Washington State Declare “Hate-Free State”

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Leaders continue to speak out in defense of their immigrant neighbors and against the divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump, adding to the growing list of states, counties, and leaders pledging to take significant steps to protect undocumented communities.

In Los Angeles, officials have proposed a bold, $10 million dollar plan to help provide legal assistance to undocumented immigrant residents facing deportation, citing that statistics show that immigrants who have legal representation “have a better chance at succeeding in court,” according to the LA Times:

Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said the fund will ensure that there is “more fairness and more effectiveness in the immigration system.”

The legal fund, aimed at helping immigrants who can’t afford attorneys, follows similar efforts at the state and national level to provide protections for migrants.

The move come as immigration groups are demanding that Los Angeles political leaders take a harder line against the incoming Republican president. More than 1 million of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country without legal status live in Los Angeles County, and local groups argue Los Angeles needs to be prepared for the threat of deportations.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said the fund would help the region’s “most vulnerable” immigrants, including undocumented minors, refugees and military families.

Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, an L.A.-based immigrant rights organization, said that many immigrants do not fight their cases because they can’t afford lawyers, or they fall victim to unscrupulous attorneys.

“That’s about to change in Los Angeles, and we applaud the initiative,” Salas said.

In Washington state, Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal, Governor Jay Inslee, and community organizers declared Washington a “hate-free state” during a press conference yesterday.

As we’ve noted on our “Trump Hate Map,” a rash of Trump-inspired hate crimes swept the US following his election last month. An Islamic center in the state was recently vandalized for the second time in a month. In Seattle, a Muslim-American student was smashed in the face with a glass bottle. 

“Here in Washington State, we refuse to succumb to fear-based politics,” said Congresswoman-elect Jayapal. “We know using fear to advance an agenda is an old and practiced tactic.”

More from “The Stranger”:

“We come together today to say we will fight injustice and policies rooted in racism and will condemn hateful rhetoric. … Together we say we respect women, we value Muslims, we value Black lives, we stand with LGBTQ community members, and with immigrants, refugees and people of all faiths. We value those of all abilities and workers and we will fight for dreamers of all kinds, immigrant and Native born.”

Gov. Inslee encouraged the audience to stand up in the face of injustice because “the electoral college has not taken away our right to speak out against hate.” Additionally, the governor maintained that it is not state law enforcement officers’ jobs to detain, arrest, or report undocumented residents, who are at risk of deportation under the Trump administration.

That threat has shaken Seattle’s Latinx community, Casa Latina executive director Marcos Martinez told The Stranger. Undocumented workers who visit Casa Latina’s advocacy and jobs center have told him that they feel “like the country voted that they didn’t want them [here],” Martinez said. Despite this, he said he’s is optimistic that having a declared hate-free state will give immigrants of all statuses an additional measure of protection from detainment and deportation.

“But we still have to have teeth behind this,” he said. “I don’t want to be negative, but this can’t just be a symbolic gesture.”

Washington politicians have started taking some important steps. In November, Rep. Suzan DelBene, who represents the first congressional district, proposed an anti-religious registry bill in response to anti-Muslim legislation supported by Trump’s cabinet.

But there’s further work politicians need to do to protect immigrant residents and members of marginalized communities, said Jorge Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project.

His suggestions including implementing policies to prevent local resources from going toward immigration enforcement and creating a legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation.