Deportation Defense Funds are Proliferating When Taxpayers Can Least Afford Them

“You have the right to an attorney.  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you free of charge.”

We all remember the Miranda warnings, if nothing else from decades of police movies and TV shows.  Most Americans’ basic sense of fairness would probably agree with the Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Gideon v. Wainwright that someone charged with a crime shouldn’t go without legal representation just because they don’t have the money for it.  But the open-borders crowd is taking advantage of that mindset by pushing at the state and local level all across the country for taxpayers to pay for lawyers for illegal aliens facing deportation.

From a legal perspective, the immigration system isn’t criminal but, civil in nature and courts have long held that, unlike a sentence for a crime, deportation isn’t punishment but rather a mechanism for removing people from the country who have no legal right to be here. 

Individuals don’t have the right to a lawyer at public expense in a civil case.  American citizens and legal immigrants sue and get sued in civil litigation every day, from family law and personal injury to contract and property disputes, and they don’t get “free” lawyers provided by the taxpayers.  Perhaps even more significantly, they also don’t get lawyers bankrolled by the public when they get sued civilly by federal, state or local governments, such as over taxes, zoning, licensing or whatever other matters of civil regulatory enforcement. 

So when a state or local government creates a deportation defense fund, they’re unfairly compelling their taxpayers to provide a category of service that citizens and those legally in the country can’t use.  These funds are a special privilege for illegal aliens only. 

Tens or even hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have flowed into these funds in the past few years.  They started in the places you’d expect like California and New York, but have been supported by local governments as far afield as Dane County, Wisconsin, and Columbus, Ohio. And more get approved and proposed each year.  In 2020, Harris County, Texas, home to Houston, was the biggest, funded to the tune of more than $2 million for just one year, despite the county’s property and sales taxes already being some of the highest in the state.

Just last month, the city council of Aurora, Colorado, only rejected setting up a deportation defense fund on a tie vote that had to be broken by the mayor.  On something so close, it can probably be expected to return soon, but in the meantime taxpayers throughout the whole state of Colorado may be on the hook for a bigger one, as state legislators are being pushed to file bills in this year’s session that would create a statewide fund. 

The country is still in the middle of a pandemic.  Lockdowns and other economic consequences of COVID-19 have driven millions of Americans out of work and permanently shuttered thousands of businesses.  Many more are still teetering on the brink.  There’s never a good time to prioritize benefits for people who shouldn’t be here, let alone publicly funding efforts to try and keep them here, but now might be the worst time of all.

Shockingly, even New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), of all people, briefly had something like a moment of clarity on this issue, back in April of last year, when he cut all $10 million in taxpayer funding for deportation defense that had been in the state budget since 2017 out of his proposed emergency COVID budget.  He said the state simply didn’t have the money.  But the open-borders crowd through their friends in the legislature quickly added it back in, and they met little to no resistance from the governor in doing so. 

Where deportation defense funds already exist, people need to push their state and local lawmakers to end them.  And where they don’t, people need to watch for new proposals popping up and push back to stop them.  They’re unfair even at the best of times but especially now they’re a virtue-signaling luxury no one can afford.

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