Immigrants who need lawyers may find help in Seattle, King County | KUOW News and Information

Immigrants who need lawyers may find help in Seattle, King County

Apr 18, 2017

In two separate measures passed Monday, Seattle and King County set aside money for low-income immigrants who may need a lawyer or legal advice.

That would include people who face deportation, most of whom don't have an attorney.

Seattle City Council members voted unanimously to create a $1 million legal defense fund for people facing immigration hearings in Seattle and Tacoma.

According to Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez, more than a third of people with immigration cases in Seattle lack legal representation. And it’s more than 90 percent in Tacoma.   

The money will initially come out of the city's general fund. It will be distributed to non-profit organizations who do legal work for immigrants.

Gonzalez said access to attorneys will help ensure immigrants in the region get a fair hearing.

"You know, at the end of the day, due process is a cornerstone of our democracy. And this is exactly what this legal defense fund recognizes: the concept of an inviolable right to be able to access legal representation so you can have due process."

Meantime, King County is directing $750,000 towards services for immigrants county-wide; $300,000 is earmarked for legal defense. County Councilmember Joe McDermott said there's a pressing need for this kind of help.

"People across our county are on edge like never before, fearful and concerned about how their families could be impacted by actions that have targeted immigrants and refugees across our communities, across our county and frankly across our country."

Legal representation is not automatically provided for people facing immigration hearings. One study shows that immigrants who have representation are far more likely to be able to remain in the country.

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