Baltimore's BoE Votes to Spend $100k in Legal Aid to Immigrants | WYPR

Baltimore's BoE Votes to Spend $100k in Legal Aid to Immigrants

Mar 7, 2018

A rally to keep Jesus Peraza in the US with his family in June of last year.
Credit Dominique Maria Bonessi

Baltimore City’s Board of Estimates voted to spend $100,000 to provide legal representation for undocumented immigrants Wednesday. The money matches a grant from a non-profit that provides legal aid to immigrants.

The non-profit VERA Institute of Justice awarded the $100,000 grant to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs. Catalina Rodriguez Lima, head of the office, said it is continuing efforts to make Baltimore a “safe city” for immigrants.

“Part of the goal is to provide these individuals access to due process," said Lima. "It’s a fair chance in front of the judge with an attorney to tell their story.”

Mayor Catherine Pugh created the office last year in response to increased threats by the federal government to deport immigrants who are in the country illegally. She said many immigrants in the city can’t afford a lawyer.

"So we’re not making the decision of their status," said Pugh. "We are making the decision to be supportive of individuals who live in our city.”

Pugh compared the effort to help undocumented immigrants to the public defender’s office, which uses taxpayer dollars to provide lawyers for criminal defendants who can’t afford one.