Washington, D.C. is taking its protection of undocumented immigrants to the next level and implementing a legal defense fund to offer aid to those at risk of deportation.
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the initiative this week, calling it a “doubling down” on the capital city’s sanctuary city status
“In Washington, DC we embrace our diversity and strive to be more inclusive,” Bowser said in a statement. “In November, I reaffirmed Washington, DC’s status as a sanctuary city, and now we are doubling down.”
The government-funded initiative, called the Immigrant Justice Legal Services (IJLS) grant program will provide $500,000 to organizations and law firms that perform legal services for immigrants in Washington, D.C.
“We must ensure that all District residents can take advantage of their federal and constitutional rights,” the mayor added. “Through the Immigrant Justice Legal Services grant program, we are ensuring that if immigration enforcement changes and problems arise, DC’s immigrant population will have our support and the support of DC’s legal community.”
According to the mayor’s office, the program will fund organizations that:
-help DC residents convert green cards to citizenship;
-renew DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applications and work permits for DC residents;
-conduct Know Your Rights briefings and workshops;
-help prepare asylum applications and provide legal representation at hearings for DC residents;
represent DC residents in deportation proceedings;
-protect financial assets and custody for DC children in the face of potential deportation of parents or guardians;
-help people and businesses conduct affairs through ITIN numbers;
-file any lawsuits that may become necessary to challenging the use of DACA applications for finding or deporting undocumented persons;
-help file applications for S, T, U and Special Immigrant Juvenile visas for DC residents or family members of DC residents; and
-provide legal help for family reunification efforts for families with at least one DC resident.
Bowser will fund the initiative with monies from the Office on Latino Affairs, according to the Washington Post — which noted that her office estimates that D.C. is home to about 25,000 undocumented immigrants.
Bowser’s effort comes on the heels of other sanctuary cities — like Chicago and Los Angeles — that have responded to the election of Donald Trump with similar programs to help undocumented immigrants avoid deportation. Trump has promised a crack down on illegal immigration once he takes office.