City Council passes ordinance to create legal defense fund for immigrants and refugees

April 17, 2017 – In an unanimous vote, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution to dedicate $1 million to helping locally-based immigrants and refugees get legal representation. City Councilors Lorena González and Tim Burgess first announced the legislation late last month.

In immigration court, people don’t have the same right to an attorney that they would otherwise—and without access to public defenders, proceedings often go on without representation.

The fund will function as a grant, and community organizations will be able to apply for the money to secure immigration attorneys and other legal assistance for people facing immigration court or going through a complex naturalization process.

In chambers today, Councilor González thanked the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs for making sure the ordinance had “enough flexibility in the underlying legislation to make sure [the legislation] truly meets the needs of the community.”

“To me,” said González, “this is a beautiful opportunity for this council and this city to really stand by its values.”

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