Illegal Immigrants With Violent Criminal Histories Could Receive Free Legal Aid

Illegal Immigrants With Violent Criminal Histories Could Receive Free Legal Aid

FILE PHOTO: ICE Field Office Director, Enforcement and Removal Operations, David Marin and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team search for a Mexican national at a home in Hawthorne, California, U.S., March 1, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

2/13/2024

Updated: 2/14/2024

A bill recently introduced in the California Legislature seeks to expand access to free legal services for illegal immigrants.
Assembly Bill 2031, also known as the Rep for All Act and introduced by Asm. Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, would offer more free legal services to illegal immigrants, including to those with violent criminal histories and others with an intention of migrating to the state.
Currently, funding for such services is provided by a program called One California.
“The Rep for All Act will ensure all immigrant Californians can access high-quality, holistic legal services through the One California program by removing unfair exclusions and advancing due process,” Mr. Jones-Sawyer told The Epoch Times by email Feb. 8. “AB 2031 ensures immigrant families have access to the legal services and resources needed to thrive with safety and stability.”
Providing legal services to immigrants with violent criminal histories is prohibited by existing law, an aspect Mr. Jones-Sawyer said needs to change.
“All people facing immigration proceedings, including deportation, deserve legal representation,” he said. “AB 2031 will strengthen the state’s immigration legal services program by expanding access ... for all Californians, regardless of their criminal history, whether they are facing detention and deportation, or when they need assistance to apply for DACA, asylum, or citizenship.”
Immigration policy activists rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, on Nov. 12, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Immigration policy activists rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, on Nov. 12, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The federal immigration policy referred to, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allows for two-year renewable deportation deferrals for minors who arrive unaccompanied or were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, though those with felonies or “serious misdemeanors” are ineligible.
Additionally, a provision of the proposal would extend benefits to those who “intend” to migrate to California and have ties to the state.
“Those who have roots in California and local communities including family, employment, and schooling, will benefit from the Rep4All legislation,” Mr. Jones-Sawyer said.
Supporters of the bill argue the expansion and some new services—including “psychological evaluations, expert witness testimony, interpretation and translation, medical examinations investigators, post-release services, and other litigation costs”—will benefit the state.
Nonprofits, funded annually by approximately $45 million in state general funds, provided representation to more than 31,000 people across California in 2022, the most recent data available from the California Department of Social Services, the agency responsible for distributing money to nonprofits.
Illegal immigrants captured by US Border Patrol agents go through a processing center near San Diego, Calif., on May 31, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Illegal immigrants captured by US Border Patrol agents go through a processing center near San Diego, Calif., on May 31, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Some critics argued that illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes should be deported instead of offered services at taxpayer’s expense.
“This should be simple—if you come to America illegally, then commit a serious crime while you’re here, you will be sent home,” Asm. James Gallagher told The Epoch Times by email Feb. 9. “It’s disgusting that Democrats are even considering wasting taxpayer dollars to help violent felons fight deportation.”
He suggested that money should be reserved for programs and services which benefit resident Californians, especially considering the at least $38 billion deficit the state is facing.
“What does it say that Newsom is trying to balance the budget with small business tax hikes and cuts to middle class scholarships, while his Democrat colleagues want to boost spending to help criminal illegal immigrants?” Mr. Gallagher said.
A similar bill introduced by Mr. Jones-Sawyer in 2023, Assembly Bill 617, died last month after stalling with no hearings.
The newly-introduced measure is awaiting committee assignments and will be considered by the Assembly Rules Committee in the coming weeks.
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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