Saying the lives of immigrants have become more uncertain under President Donald Trump’s policies, a Los Angeles councilman Friday announced more than $1 million in grants for three immigrant advocacy groups aimed at providing legal help to immigrants facing deportation or to help them gain citizenship.
Councilman Curren Price, who represents a South Los Angeles district with a high Latino immigrant population, said he will be taking the money out of his district’s discretionary funds account, which are normally put towards needs that arise around the neighborhood, such as for tree-trimming, sidewalk repair and buying trash cans.
The use of the money to respond to federal immigration policy is unusual, but Price said that for now, the money is better used to help protect immigrants who are now vulnerable to deportation.
“What is the point of having those things if people are afraid to get on the streets or get outside?” he said. “So we’re using the funds to rescue our families, to come out of the shadows and to have productive lives.”
The bulk of the grant money will be split between the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, or CHIRLA, and the Central American Resource Center, also known as CARECEN, with each receiving $500,000.
A third group, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, will get $25,000.
CHIRLA Executive Director Angelica Salas said the good thing about Price’s grant is that it is immediately available, unlike a $10 million legal fund that city and county leaders set up to assist people in deportation proceedings.
“We are absolutely supportive of the Los Angeles legal fund, but it has not yet come through the door, so this will be super helpful to get the work done right away,” Salas said during a news conference outside Los Angeles City Hall.
CHIRLA will be putting the grant into its immigration legal services, as well as outreach and education, with an aim to help as many as 4,500 residents.
Salas said their group provides attorney consultations to help people figure out what their options are, whether it’s naturalization, family unity petitions or something else that “can actually help safeguard the well-being of this family.”
Martha Arevalo, executive director of CARECEN, which runs a day laborer center, said they plan to use the money to encourage immigrants to take the leap into citizenship.
“Unfortunately, under this new administration, we have already seen that legal, permitted residents are also under attack,” with travelers being detained and questioned at airports, Arevalo said.
The Trump administration’s newly issued executive orders also “don’t exclude legal permitted residents from being targeted for deportation if they have a criminal record or something on their record,” she said.
“So the only real protection is citizenship,” she said.
The funds will be used toward naturalization study classes, or to help pay for application fees, which can be as high as $700, Arevalo said.
Council aide Angelina Valencia said “no one will be turned away” from services paid for with the funding, but residents of Price’s Ninth District in South Los Angeles will be given priority, “given that there is a great need here.”
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