The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously approved a $100,000 grant for the Legal Aid Justice Center to provide legal representation to immigrants who live in Arlington.
“Arlington is leading the way by being the first jurisdiction in Virginia to create a specific funding source for legal representation for its immigrant residents facing deportation proceedings,” said the center’s Rebecca Wolozin, in a statement following the vote.
Over the past few years, Arlington County has repeatedly branded itself as a welcoming community for immigrants of all legal statuses, though it has also cautioned that it is not a “sanctuary” jurisdiction that can shield undocumented immigrants from federal authorities. By one recent estimate, there are around 17,000 undocumented immigrants in Arlington.
More on the Board’s action, from a county press release, below.
The Arlington County Board today approved one-time funding of $100,000 to the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) to provide immigration legal aid services for County residents. The County Manager will execute a grant agreement with LAJC.
“Ten years ago this month, the County Board approved a resolution supporting Arlington’s newcomers and pledging that Arlington is and would always be a community where every individual is treated with dignity and respect,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “In these uncertain times, it is important that the County take tangible steps to address the urgent legal needs of our immigrant residents. We will continue to stand with them, and to be a welcoming and inclusive community.”
The Board voted unanimously to approve the funding for emergency immigration legal aid services. Read the staff report; scroll down to Item No. 43.
“Arlington is leading the way by being the first jurisdiction in Virginia to create a specific funding source for legal representation for its immigrant residents facing deportation proceedings,” said Rebecca Wolozin, the Legal Aid Justice Center attorney who will provide services to Arlington’s immigrant families under this grant.
“In the United States, the right to a public defender is one of our most sacred of constitutional rights. But for immigrants facing deportation to a country where their lives are in danger, the federal government provides no public defender,” Wolozin said. “There are currently over 450 Arlington residents facing deportation proceedings without any lawyer, and 41 Arlington residents were placed in deportation proceedings in the last 90 days alone. It is wonderful that Arlington is stepping up to fill in the justice gap, and it is more important than ever now that our Dreamers suddenly find themselves at risk of deportation to a country they barely remember.”
The Board first approved funding for this grant as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget and directed the County Manager to develop a process for award. Six non-profit providers already providing Arlington residents with legal services related to immigration enforcement responded to the County’s Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) with proposals.
The new grant will support and expand these activities, helping to meet unmet needs for the full range of emergency immigration legal services. The funding is meant to both provide services to more residents and provide more targeted legal aid services to help individuals and families evaluate and pursue their options for obtaining legal status and to have a plan in place should an immigration enforcement action occur.