top of page

Community Defense Program

Leaders in the Local Movement Toward Universal Representation for All  

The Community Defense Project, launched in 2017, utilizes ImmDef’s unique position as a high-volume immigrant rights law firm to support the movement for a more just immigration system in our regional service area. This program works to keep communities thriving through collaborative advocacy efforts that result in county and/or city-funded affirmative and removal defense legal services in areas with a large immigrant population. This program was formed with support from the VERA Institute of Justice’s SAFE (Safety & Fairness for Everyone) Cities Initiative, local government, and philanthropic foundations. We are proud to make an impact in local communities thanks to our partnership with the County & City of Los Angeles, the City of Santa Ana, and the City of Long Beach. Together with our partners we have fought to keep families together, reduce the criminalization and deportation of community members, and protect people from abhorrent conditions in immigration detention. 

Anchor 1

Los Angeles: Represent LA 

In 2017 the Los Angeles Fund, now REPRESENT LA, was created as a two-year grant through collaborative funds sourced by Los Angeles City, Los Angeles 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 this program so that Los Angeles immigrant communities have access to lifesaving 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.  

Anchor 2

Orange County: Santa Ana Deportation Defense Fund

Since 2017, ImmDef has partnered with the City of Santa Ana to provide removal defense services to people that live or work in the City of Santa Ana . Santa Ana remains the first and only city in Orange County providing legal defense to immigrants facing deportation though a merits-blind, universal model. 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 and ImmDef became partners through the Long Beach Justice Fund (LBJF). Through this fund, ImmDef provides deportation defense representation for low-income immigrants (children and adults) who live or work in Long Beach. We work collaboratively with community-based organizations such as Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition and Centro CHA to carry out our work including community-based clinics. This project increases access to representation for the City’s most vulnerable residents and help keep Long Beach families together. 

MicrosoftTeams-image (62).png
Anchor 3

ImmDef Directing Attorney, Melissa Shephard, oversees ImmDef’s Community Defense Program in Santa Ana and shares information about how this program carries out our long-term commitment to advocating for universal representation. 

Everyone deserves a fair fight in court.

bottom of page