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Universal Representation Approach

Beginning in 2017 ImmDef, with the support of the County & City of Los Angeles, the City of Santa Ana, and later the City of Long Beach,  launched our Community Defense Project to support our immigrant communities facing deportation and ICE inprisonment. The projects were initially formed in conjunction with the VERA Institute of Justices Safe Cities Initiative, a nationwide network of localities investing in their communities by defending them against ICE.  Generally, people facing deportation do not get appointed an attorney even if they are detained. Many people in deportation proceedings have valid claims to remain in the United States but find it nearly impossible to present these claims without proper legal representation. These initiatives were launched following the 2016 election due to the organizing of community-based organizations and activists who saw the need for cities and counties to step up.

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In 2017 the Los Angeles Fund, now REPRESENT LA, was created as a two-year grant through collaborative funds sourced by LA City, LA County, and Philanthropic partners such as the California Community Foundation and the Weingart Foundation. Since the fund's creation, ImmDef has worked tirelessly to defend it in order to ensure that LA's immigrant communities have access to life saving legal support. 

 According to a September 2020 evaluation by the Vera Institute of Justice, "62% of LAJF clients with completed cases achieved outcomes that enabled them to remain in the United States- compared to fewer than five percent among unrepresented immigrants nationwide." LAJF attorneys have helped secure release from custody for 49% of initially detained clients, either on bond or following successful case outcomes.

LAJF supporters attend council meeting and hold up signs that read "DON'T BETRAY DYE PROCESS - CANT DIVIDE US"
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SANTA ANA: Deportation Defense Fund


At a time when harsh immigration policies are disrupting our communities, separating families, and increasing detention and deportation, the City of Santa Ana has stepped up to stand with immigrants through the Santa Ana Deportation Defense Fund. The Fund began under the Vera Institute of Justice SAFE Cities program. Santa Ana remains the first and only city in Orange County—and one of only a handful of cities in California—providing legal defense to immigrants facing deportation though a merits-blind, universal model.


Since 2017, ImmDef has been the City of Santa Ana's contracted Legal Service Provider to provide removal defense services to Santa Ana residents. With the assistance of a City-funded lawyer, Santa Ana residents facing deportation or detention have better chances of fighting against an unjust immigration system. According to the VERA Institute of Justice, at the Adelanto Immigration Court, which hears the cases of SAFE’s Santa Ana clients, 74 percent have gone unrepresented over the last five years.


LONG BEACH: Long Beach Justice Fund


On April 16, 2019 The City of Long Beach announced the selection of Immigrant Defenders Law Center as the legal service provider that would initiate the Long Beach Justice Fund (LBJF), an initiative that provides legal representation for immigrants who live or work in Long Beach and are facing deportation. The fund was set up through a SAFE (Safety and Fairness for Everyone) Cities Catalyst Grant from the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera), and a one-time grant from the City of Long Beach. Charitable contributions from individuals and philanthropic organizations sustain the fund.

ImmDef runs our Long Beach Justice Fund intake system on a universal representation model. We provide full-scale removal defense to Long Beach community members under this grant and will represent them through final adjudication of their immigration case, which includes all EOIR hearings (detained and released), bond, USCIS applications and a limited number of BIA appeals.


ImmDef has an extensive track record defending the most marginalized groups, and we are working tirelessly to maintain this impact in the City of Long Beach. We work collaboratively with community-based organizations such as Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition to carry out our work including community-based clinics.

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Why universal legal representation in immigration court is important 

Melissa Shepard, Immdef Directing Attorney  overseeing ImmDef’s community defense programs in Santa Ana shares information on our community defense programs in Santa Ana and Long Beach delving into our long-term commitment to advocating for universal representation. 

Everyone deserves a fair fight in court.

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