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Neighborhood Services

Immigration Legal Fund#

Background#

Background

In 2021, the Fort Collins City Council authorized the creation of the Immigration Legal Fund pilot program. Money from this program will be used to fund legal services related to residents’ immigration issues, including, but not limited to: pursuing a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency, legal representation, education and outreach, and legal clinics.

Those who receive assistance through the City of Fort Collins program must be Fort Collins residents.

Numerous municipalities across the United States have established similar funds, citing benefits to the overall community.

In Fort Collins, about 4,500 residents need immigration-related legal services, and it is estimated that hundreds of cases have unmet legal needs in the community. As of December 2020, 83 Larimer County residents were in detention with unmet legal needs, and Poudre School District reported 54 students who are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and need pro bono legal assistance.

Part of the rationale for the City funding the Immigration Legal Fund is the limited availability of local immigration legal services and that no community partners are currently providing pro bono legal advice clinics.

How does it work?#

The Immigration Legal Fund will provide funding for the City to contract with a community organization, attorney, or law firm that can provide legal services for immigration issues. The service provider will be selected through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

Once selected, the service provider will work directly with community members to provide outlined legal services to clients at no cost. The service provider will then be reimbursed by the Immigration Legal Fund. The City of Fort Collins does not provide legal advice or direct immigration legal services.

FAQs#

Who is eligible for the program?highlight_off

Fort Collins residents who have immigration-related legal needs are eligible.

What types of legal services can be provided by the program?highlight_off

Examples of case types and issues that can be covered by the fund are:

  • Deportation and/or immigration detention;
  • Children seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status*;
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”);
  • Asylum and Refugee cases;
  • U visas and T visas for certain victims of violent crime or trafficking;
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) protections;
  • Family Petitions including Family Reunification Matters;
  • Labor/Work Permit-Related Petitions;
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS); and
  • Residents seeking pathways to citizenship and lawful presence (also known as Affirmative Cases) through naturalization or Lawful Permanent Resident Status.

Program funds can also be used to pay for program administration, education, and outreach.

*Special Immigrant Juvenile Status refers to situations involving minors in the United States who need the protection of a juvenile court because they have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent. If SIJ classification is granted, those minors may qualify for lawful permanent residency (also known as getting a Green Card).

How was this program funded?highlight_off

City Council authorized up to $150,000 for the program from existing reserves. No additional taxes have been raised to support this program.

Why did the City decide to fund this program?highlight_off

The City and City Council believe that this program will have both benefits to individual residents and to the community as a whole. Providing immigration legal services to residents will enable those individuals and families to continue to be positive contributors to Fort Collins and to participate fully in the community.

In addition to enhancing cohesion and culture of Fort Collins, this program anticipates significant economic benefits to the community, including workforce development.

This program also fills an existing gap in services by the private sector.

Is this program permanent?highlight_off

Not at this time. The Immigration Legal Fund is an 18-month pilot program that will run through January 2023. It will be evaluated after the pilot period.

Are there specific City priorities that this program supports?highlight_off

Yes. This program supports several outcomes outlined in the City’s 2020 Strategic Plan, which outlines goals for the next five years. Those outcomes are:

  • Neighborhood Livability & Social Health 1.4: Advance equity for all, leading with race, so that a person’s identity or identities is not a predictor of outcomes.
  • Economic Health 3.2: Understand trends in the local labor market and work with key partners to grow diverse employment opportunities.
  • Safe Communities 5.1: Improve overall community safety while continuing to increase the level of public trust and willingness to use emergency services.
  • High Performing Government 7.3: Improve effectiveness of community engagement with enhanced inclusion of all identities, languages and needs.

 

You can find the 2020 Strategic Plan at the link below.

View the 2020 Strategic Plan

How will this program be evaluated?highlight_off

City staff have proposed several quantitative statistics to be used in evaluating the program:

  • Number of people receiving free legal advice or training
  • Number of people receiving direct representation (adults/children & case type)
  • Number of people able to lawfully remain in the U.S. due to representation
  • Number of people released on bond during the program compared past years
  • Number of referrals to the program by other participants
  • Percent of participants who feel they are safer due to the program
  • Percent of participants who are more knowledgeable about their pathways to citizenship or lawful presence after the program
  • Percent of participants reporting greater likelihood of accessing City or community resources due to the program
Did Council consider public comment?highlight_off

Yes. City Council began considering this issue in September 2020 and considered written and verbal public comment throughout the process. Overall, there were slightly more comments received by council that supported the creation of the Immigration Legal Fund.

Predominant themes that emerged from public comments in support of a municipal immigration legal fund were:

  • Desire for the City to demonstrate commitment to social justice and equity,
  • Concerns about the lack of due process afforded to immigrants facing deportation proceedings.
  • High cost of legal services as barriers to pursuing lawful pathways to citizenship
  • Effectiveness of other municipal immigration legal funds operating in Denver or other parts of the U.S., and
  • Effectiveness of having legal representation in immigration court.

Comments in opposition to municipal funding of immigration legal services largely reflected an underlying desire to limit immigration into the community.

Shared concerns of commenters included:

  • Competition for jobs,
  • Belief that beneficiaries of these legal services have no lawful right to remain in the U.S. or have broken the law, and
  • Uncertainty about the role of the City in providing these funds with a preference for federal or nonprofit leadership in this space instead.

From October to December 2021, the Immigration Legal Fund service providers assisted 20 people with direct legal representation in immigration matters. Including:

  • 11 adults (over age 21)
  • 1 child age 5-10 years
  • 6 children age 15-18
  • 2 children age 18-21

Case types included:

U Visa - victims of crime

Asylum - victims of persecution or fear of harm or death upon return to home country

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status - abused, neglected, or abandoned children

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - youth who arrived in the U.S. during a specified time period

Violence Against Women Act Visa (VAWA) - victims of domestic violence or crimes outlined in the Violence Against Women Act

T Visa/Office of Trafficking In Persons - victims of human trafficking

Lawful Permanent Resident Status - Permanent authorization to live in the United States as a non-citizen (sometimes known as “green card” residents)

Removal Cancellation - status adjustment by an immigration judge from ‘subject to deportation’ to ‘lawful admittance for permanent residence’ under certain circumstances

Detention/Deportation - persons detained and/or at risk of deportation with matters pending before an immigration court

Contact#

For more information on the Immigration Legal Fund, contact:

JC Ward | Senior City Planner-Neighborhoods | jcward@fcgov.com

Leo Escalante | Program Coordinator | lescalante@fcgov.com