Memo for fiscal year 2020, updated 2019-02-26

[Archived] Question #07: What are the benefits to implementing a legal representation program for Alexandria residents facing deportation? If approved by Council, how would it be implemented (awarding contract?)


What are the benefits to implementing a legal representation program for Alexandria residents facing deportation? If Council, approves such measure, how would it be implemented (awarding contract?) If any close jurisdiction implemented a similar measure, how has it fared? (Councilman Seifeldein)


Benefits to Implementing a Legal Representation Program for Alexandria Residents Facing Deportation

Under this program, if funded by City Council, Alexandria residents facing deportation would benefit from legal representation: increasing their chances of success in Federal Court of not being deported and in remaining in the US legally; educating them about their rights and about services available to them; and enabling them to work, pay taxes, and keep their families together.

Protecting Due Process Rights

The US Supreme Court in Plyer v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1082) recognized that the Due Process Clause applies to “all ‘persons’ within the United States, including aliens,” and regardless of status.

Certain rights should apply to all human beings by virtue of their humanity, regardless of their status or citizenship. (David Cole, The Idea of Humanity:  Human Rights and Immigrants’ Rights, 37 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev.627 (2006) and Universal Declaration of Human Rights December 10, 1948). This principle stands as a guide for local government to adopt ordinances, pass resolutions, set policies, or avoid laws to assure that immigrants are afforded all protections found in the US Constitution, Supreme Court case law and international treaties.

A number of cities and counties in the US have successfully implemented a Universal Representation model in their communities, focusing on due process rights for immigrants to deter legal challenges. However, this approach is not without susceptibility to legal challenge based upon federal or state law. A prior memorandum from the City Attorney on this subject was sent to City Council last month. The City Manager and staff have reviewed the City Attorney’s memo and have consulted with the City Attorney and are comfortable recommending that City Council move forward with this proposal.  

Promoting an Inclusive Community

The 1st and 14th Amendments can be used to create initiatives that protect immigrant communities and promote “immigrant community integration” in Dillon Rule states, where local government actions are strictly limited to the powers conferred on them by state legislation. Implementing this program will foster community integration of immigrants in Alexandria, which benefits all residents by promoting public safety, preserving families and contributing to a stronger economy.

National League of Cities (NLC) promotes initiatives in cities; such as, establishing advisory committees to work with communities to promote a spirit of collaboration and understanding within their immigrant populations.

If Council approves such a measure, how would it be implemented (awarding contract)?

To be consistent with how human services grants are awarded, the City would perform its due diligence in selecting a non-profit legal services provider through a competitive solicitation.

If any close jurisdiction implemented a similar measure, how has it fared?

Arlington County has had a similar program and appropriated $100,000 in FY 2018 for legal representation of undocumented immigrants. Funding was provided in FY 2018 and FY 2019 to a Northern Virginia non-profit that provides these legal services. Arlington reported that it issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) and selected the non-profit vendor because “they do a really great job.” Although the funds were to be cut in the current budget process, $40,000 was restored in the proposed FY2020 budget. Arlington is subject to the same state and federal codes as Alexandria. There have been no legal challenges to Arlington County’s program.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted in late January to move forward on potentially funding a $200,000 pilot program in its FY 2020 budget for universal representation in Fairfax County. The pilot program would fund qualified non-profits to provide direct representation to Fairfax County residents who are immigrants, in deportation proceedings, and who cannot otherwise afford counsel—including long-time lawful permanent residents, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients, and Temporary Protected Status holders. The $200,000 pilot program it funded would provide full legal representation to nearly two dozen detained Fairfax residents at risk of detention; and provide legal rights and education to the public in all ten country districts. Fairfax’s funding determination will be made as part of its normal budget process.

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