Taxpayer-Funded Lawyers for Illegals


Staff member
Taxpayer-Funded Lawyers for Illegals
So-called “deportation defense” is the next big thing in radical causes.
By Matthew Vadum

Leftists like to keep criminals, rioters, and illegal aliens out on the streets where they can do damage to American society instead of behind bars where they belong.

Leftist groups like the Kamala Harris-endorsed Minnesota Freedom Fund, National Lawyers Guild, and the ACORN successor group, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), set up bail funds for rioters to get them back out on the streets causing mayhem.

Now radicals are doing the same thing for illegal aliens.

The best friend of illegal aliens right now is the Brooklyn, New York-based Vera Institute of Justice, which spends much of its resources freeing illegals who often fail to appear for immigration hearings, from immigration detention facilities.

The extremist open-borders and anti-law and order narratives on Vera’s website, reeking of anti-Americanism, read like they were written by Noam Chomsky.

According to Vera: “In its scale and brutality, the American justice system is a global aberration[,]”; “The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world[,]”; and “People of color are incarcerated at an unmistakably higher rate than white people.”

The group’s mission is “[t]o end the overcriminalization and mass incarceration of people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty.”

Vera was founded in 1961 by philanthropist Louis Schweitzer and magazine editor Herbert Sturz, who “recognized the injustice of a bail system in New York City that locked people up simply for being poor.” Schweitzer died in 1971. Sturz, who died in June 2021, served on the board of leftist billionaire George Soros’s grantmaking behemoth, the Open Society Institute, since renamed Open Society Foundations.

Originally called the Manhattan Bail Project, it focused on helping low-income New Yorkers meet bail conditions they could not afford. Nowadays, much of Vera’s work is concerned with immigration-related issues. “Because very few can afford to hire a lawyer, most immigrants face deportation proceedings alone and without any legal defense,” according to Vera.

It is a well-heeled nonprofit that gets much of its funding from the federal government. In fiscal 2019 it employed 334 people, took in $178.5 million, and ended with year with $97.3 million.

Vera is a pioneer in the field of the “deportation defense program,” which can be defined as any initiative that provides legal representation to a non-citizen in deportation proceedings, typically at little or no cost to the client.

This deportation defense movement grew out of the sanctuary city movement, which gave illegal aliens permission to rob, rape, and murder Americans by, among other things, stigmatizing immigration enforcement. Both of these activist agglomerations demonize U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

These two movements “come from the same philosophy, namely that non-citizens should have the same or even superior rights to those afforded to legal citizens,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI, the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). IRLI is a public interest law firm founded in 1986 that describes itself as being “dedicated to achieving responsible immigration policies that serve our national interest.”

“In this case, if a citizen were in need of legal services for a civil matter, they would be required to find an attorney at their own expense. Aliens facing deportation in a civil matter are being given taxpayer-funded legal representation that citizens would not get. The residents of the community did not have an opportunity to vote on this; it was done as a deal between local government officials and groups like Vera,” Wilcox said.

“Sanctuary policy opposes the practice that aliens with criminal records who are in city or county jails can be detained at the request of ICE for transfer of custody and possible deportation,” he said. “This comes from agreements between local sheriffs’ departments and ICE to safeguard a community. Sanctuary laws would nullify those agreements because one or more local politicians want to terminate them for self-serving partisan reasons, in many cases as a result of lobbying efforts from groups like CASA de Maryland and Vera.”

Vera favors expanding the right to taxpayer-provided counsel and supports the creation of a taxpayer-funded federal defender service to provide legal representation to everyone in immigration proceedings who can’t afford a lawyer.

But until that day arrives, Vera is working with city and county governments across America to establish programs that offer free legal representation at taxpayer expense to illegal aliens fighting deportation, according to a recent report from IRLI, which states that Vera “claims that, out of the more than 50 publicly funded local and state deportation defense programs across the U.S., its SAFE Initiative (Safety & Fairness for Everyone) is formal partners with 22 of these communities.”

IRLI estimates that a minimum of $5.6 million will be spent by taxpayers living in these communities on these programs in fiscal 2022.

“These programs are an insult to every law-abiding American citizen and legal resident,” according to Wilcox.

“Our laws clearly state that non-citizens charged with civil offenses do not have a right to legal representation. Yet we have radical anti-borders groups starting these programs and sticking unknowing citizens with the bill. It’s outrageous.”

According to IRLI, “under U.S. law, illegal aliens and other non-citizens facing deportation orders do not have a right to legal representation because immigration law is a civil matter, not a criminal one.”

At first it may be jarring to read that would-be deportees “do not have a right to legal representation” – that just doesn’t seem right. This is America, after all.

The phrase doesn’t actually mean what you may think it means. Of course, people accused of immigration law violations have a right to retain counsel to act for them in legal proceedings but they do not have a right to the services of a lawyer paid for by the government.

Leftist groups like Vera want to change that.

They hope to build on a sliver of a legal right that is known as “Civil Gideon.”

In Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution applies the Sixth Amendment, which states that a defendant in criminal proceedings has a right to “the Assistance of Counsel,” to the states, thereby creating a right for criminal defendants unable to afford their own lawyers to have the state appoint and pay for attorneys on their behalf.

The left-leaning American Bar Association, asserts that there is such a thing as a “civil right to counsel,” but acknowledges it is not a widely accepted concept.

Civil right to counsel, or “Civil Gideon,” is the idea that “people who are unable to afford lawyers in legal matters involving basic human needs—such as shelter, sustenance, safety, health, and child custody—should have access to a lawyer at no charge,” according to the ABA.

While this right to counsel “exists in criminal matters, it exists at present only in very limited circumstances in civil matters.”

Vera, meanwhile, “has served as the main catalyst for the proliferation” of existing deportation defense programs for illegal aliens, according to IRLI.

Vera doles out one-time grants to local governments that create these programs in the hope they become permanent. Its first program began in New York City in 2013 and was called the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project.

Programs like it have multiplied since 2013, IRLI reports. In July 2021, Vera boasted that various “communities successful[ly] demand public investment in representation for immigrants.”

Vera states that in California, Santa Ana “increased and made permanent funding for its universal representation program,” and Long Beach “committed to leveraging federal sources of stimulus and recovery funding to aid an increase in public funding for the Long Beach Justice Fund.” San Diego began a new $5 million legal defense program, “the first of its kind in a border county.”

Indianapolis initiated “a new immigration legal defense fund,” and Philadelphia boosted fiscal 2022 spending on the Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project (PAIFUP), according to Vera.

Philadelphia won’t call itself a sanctuary city, opting instead to dub itself a “Welcoming City,” according to a statement from 2018: “We do not allow our City employees, including police officers, to ask about the documentation status of people they encounter.”

In 2019 Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, unveiled PAIFUP, a joint effort between Vera and the city to combat all the imagined “hate” coming out of the Trump administration. Local taxpayers shelled out the initial $100,000, and Vera and the Samuel S. Fels Fund kicked in an additional $200,000, IRLI reports.

PAIFUP was in financial trouble during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 when Philadelphia was poised to eliminate its funding but city leaders “somehow not only found a way to maintain the program amid a financial crisis, but doubled taxpayer commitment to $200,000 for next fiscal year.”

PAIFUP acknowledged it had “no eligibility criteria other than income and a lack of private counsel” and that it did not “exclude individuals based on prior criminal convictions, residency, or any other reason.”

Lots more government money is in the pipeline for the Vera Institute of Justice.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded Vera a $158 million taxpayer-funded contract in 2021 to assist unaccompanied minors in avoiding deportation from the U.S., IRLI told Fox News.

ILRI investigator Jason Hopkins told the media outlet that Vera states on its website that it “is committed to ensuring that every person facing deportation receives legal representation regardless of … history with the criminal legal system.”

“That really opens up the door to—is this an illegal alien who’s been charged, convicted of murder, rape and any other heinous crime?” Hopkins said.

“Vera is very open that they really don’t care about their criminal history.”