About a Legal Defense Fund – Undocumented immigrants

Information provided by Faith in Fresno.

Contact Sukaina Hussain, Community Organizer, 847-924-9592, Faith in Fresno, 546 N Fulton St, Fresno, CA 93728

City of Fresno Legal Defense Fund

Faith in Fresno is asking its Member Congregations (including the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno) to contact City Councilmembers and urge them to vote in favor of funding an Immigration Legal Defense Fund in the Fresno City Budget.  This would help provide legal assistance to those facing deportation and who would otherwise not be able to afford legal representation.  Our congregation’s Faith in Fresno Team committed that our church would make 100 calls to Councilmember Paul Caprioglio to encourage him to vote yes (please call even if you are not in his district)

Councilmember Soria – Voting Yes

Councilmember Baines – Voting Yes

Councilmember Chavez – Unsure, may lean Yes

*Councilmember Caprioglio - Unknown, needs pressure

Councilmember Olivier – No

Councilmember Bredefeld – No

Councilmember Brandau – No

Below is a call script with phone numbers to City Council Members.

Below that is detailed information about the proposed Legal Defense Fund.

Legal Defense Fund

Call Script with Phone Numbers


Hello, Councilmember _____________________. My name is ______________________ and I am calling from _________________________ (congregation). I am calling you today to urge you to support and pass an addition to the upcoming budget to include investment into a Legal Defense Fund to help protect undocumented immigrants who are threatened by deportation and have no access to legal representation.


One of the most pressing problems facing many immigrant families in Fresno is the inability to afford or find quality legal representation. This is particularly important since individuals in immigration court are not provided a public defender. This prevents families who cannot find or afford quality legal representation from having any opportunity at defending against unavoidable and unjust deportations, as well as other threats.


That is why several other cities have recently supported and partnered with local funders to create these funds and why the City of Fresno needs to make this commitment to help save Fresno families.


Call Your Councilmember Today!


Esmeralda Soria, District 1

(559) 621-7810


Steve Brandau, District 2
(559) 621-7820


Oliver L. Baines, District 3
(559) 621-7831

Paul Caprioglio, District 4
(559) 621-7842


Luis Chavez, District 5
(559) 621-7850

Garry Bredefeld, District 6
(559) 621-7861

Clint Olivier, District 7
(559) 621-7875


Legal Defense Fund: Fresno City Budget Proposal


Faith in Fresno congregations, clergy and community partners are strongly recommending that the Fresno City Council and Mayor Brand support an addition to the budget to invest into and provide leadership to help steer creation of a public-private Legal Defense Fund, to concretely save Fresno families and send a message to other prospective supporters that this is a commitment we can all make together. After discussions with local attorneys, community groups, and philanthropic foundations, we believe there is a strong and rising coalition of support around this cause.


As we have seen across the country, and particularly in California, raids and deportations of our immigrant families have increased in the last few months. Recent Executive Orders have led to unprecedented expansion of who can and is being targeted by ICE, with an 150% increase this year in arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record. As fears and anxieties rise within our communities, one of the most pressing problems facing many immigrant families in Fresno and beyond is the inability to afford or find quality legal representation to regularize their immigration status or in case they are detained. This is particularly important since individuals in immigration court are not provided a public defender. This prevents families who cannot find or afford quality legal representation from any opportunity at defending against unavoidable and unjust deportations, as well as other threats.


Several California cities have recently approved funding to catalyze a Legal Defense Fund, which would take some City funding and multiply it by coupling it with other public and/or private sources, to create a pool of funding for legal services. This would help both defer costs in certain situations and create an environment that helps identify quality legal representation. Our research suggests that the average deportation defense costs approximately $5,000. Other cities have also aimed for some of the funding to be used to recruit lawyers to provide pro-bono representation, which helps make sure the funding goes further and reaches more people who need it, with a goal of at least 70% of the funding going to direct representation.


As such, the following are some concrete recommendations for the budget that reflects the thousands of conversations conducted across our member congregations and partner organizations over the past year:


  • Legal Defense Fund Budget Amendment: $200,000 contribution from the City of Fresno General Fund


  • Fiscal agent: Local philanthropic foundation


  • Matching and Catalyzing Contributions: Private individuals, local businesses, philanthropic foundations, and other government entities such as the State of California and Fresno County


  • Governance: Creation of a Legal Defense Fund Steering Committee – with a representative from the Fresno City Council – to craft the details of this Fund and oversee/monitor its spending, with regular reports back to the City Council and public.



Additional Background on Legal Defense Funds:


The need for fair legal representation is demonstrated from the results of a recent study by the American Immigration Council:

  • Only 37% of immigrants have legal representation; those living in smaller cities have far less access to representation than larger cities like New York City
  • Only 14% of detained immigrants, like those held in prisons and detention centers, are able to secure legal representation
  • Only 2% of immigrants without lawyers are able to successfully avoid deportation


In response, several cities across the state and country have taken action – most recently in the City of Sacramento – by allocating funding in support of public-private Legal Defense Funds for immigrants threatened by deportation. We believe that the upcoming budget proposal represents a significant opportunity for Fresno to similarly address this concern to families and for you to affirm your commitment to truly represent those who are most vulnerable. This is not only morally right, but also fiscally responsible. According to a new study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), undocumented immigrants paid $140 million in taxes to The Central Valley (in the form of property taxes and local sales taxes) and nearly $135.3 million in taxes to the state of California (in the form of personal income taxes and sales and excise taxes).  In Fresno County, undocumented residents contributed an estimated $56,512,200 in state and local taxes last year (ITEP).


Reports repeatedly show that access to legal representation provides immigrants with a fair opportunity in court. Therefore, Faith in Fresno clergy, faith leaders, community members, partners and allies have come together to call on the City to make an investment into a Legal Defense Fund and send a powerful message of standing with families. A Legal Defense Fund is as a compassionate and economically sensible way for the City to defend its most vulnerable and to avoid, as a recent LA Times editorial said, immigration courts from further becoming where “traffic stops can become death sentences” for poor families.

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