Today, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety is holding a public hearing on Bill 22-80, “the Access to Justice for Immigrants Amendment Act of 2017.”  As introduced, this bill would create a separate civil immigration legal services program to serve the District’s documented and undocumented residents and would provide funding to nonprofits that deliver civil immigration legal services to low-income and underserved residents.

The American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia supports Bill 22-80 as an important initiative that addresses a critical need for legal services for D.C. residents who often lack meaningful recourse to defend their rights in immigration proceedings.

In light of the Trump administration’s aggressive anti-immigration agenda, it has never been more timely or necessary to expand  access to legal counsel for D.C. residents who need assistance applying for asylum or citizenship, obtaining work visas, or defending against detention and deportation proceedings, among other issues.

This program builds on Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Immigrant Legal Services Grant Program announced this past January, which ACLU-DC also supported.  It would expand the reach of that program by creating a sustainable, dedicated fund that reinforces the District’s commitment to access to justice for all its residents. 

We commend Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Robert C. White, Jr. (At-Large), and David Grosso (At-Large) for introducing this bill, and we hope to see the Council vote to pass this legislation in the fall.

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