santa ana Deportation Defense Fund

In 2017, the City of Santa Ana became the first city in Orange County to designate funds to help residents facing deportation receive proper legal help. Santa Ana is one of the first dozen cities across the country to join the Vera Institute of Justice’s SAFE (Safety and Fairness for Everyone) Network, a group of communities dedicated to the goal of publicly funded universal representation.  In 2021, the City of Santa Ana voted to increase the budget for this program and make it a permanent line item in the City budget.

Individuals at risk of deportation hold an important place in the fabric of Santa Ana’s community. They strengthen the city through their economic contributions and strong relationships. Santa Ana’s efforts to secure due process for ALL through the city’s legal defense fund is helping to create an equitable justice system, and it helps to protect people from institutions that hold little, if any, regard for their rights and aspirations. This type of effort is novel, and it can be used as a model for the nation to adopt a government funded universal representation program that provides due process for all, including individuals moving through immigration courts. 

ImmDef provides immigration legal defense services to Santa Ana community members who are detained in Adelanto Detention Center. Under the current immigration laws, these community members are not guaranteed legal representation, a right that the sixth amendment of the US constitution should uphold but falls shorts. 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. Legal defense services are provided under the universal representation model, which is publicly funded deportation defense for all, regardless of the complexity of the case.  

ImmDef has an extensive track record defending the most marginalized groups, and we are working tirelessly to maintain this impact in the City of Santa Ana. The people of Santa Ana have shown great commitment to the Santa Ana Justice Fund. In January 2017, Santa Ana declared itself a sanctuary city with an ordinance prohibiting the use of city resources for immigration enforcement, among other things. In a 2018 poll by UC San Diego Associate Professor Tom Wong, 65% of respondents in Santa Ana expressed support  for paying for legal representation for those who cannot afford an attorney, including individuals facing deportation. With the challenges presented by our nation’s flawed legal system, ensuring due process for all is no easy task, but ImmDef’s work through the Santa Ana Deportation Defense Fund is helping Santa Ana become a more equitable place to live for all. 


Directing Attorney Lisa Okamoto advocates for the continuance of the Santa Ana Deportation Defense Fund at a Santa Ana City Council meeting.

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ImmDef Santa Ana clients are reunited thanks to ImmDef's legal team after being separated. Photo via LA Times.