Council Authorizes County To Award Funds to Three Nonprofits for Immigrant Legal Services

Council Authorizes County To Award Funds to Three Nonprofits for Immigrant Legal Services

Ayuda, HIAS and KIND on course to receive a total of $370,000

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Montgomery County has identified three separate organizations that will receive a total of $370,000 to support their efforts to provide legal representation for low-income immigrants and children facing civil deportation proceedings.

The nonprofits estimate these funds could enable them to offer legal aid to 111 Montgomery County residents, including 60 children, according to a county staff report. The County Council earlier this week gave county officials authorization to enter into contracts with the groups, Ayuda Inc. and KIND, both based in D.C., and Silver Spring-based HIAS.

Council President Hans Riemer remarked the money was designated during a time when immigrants have been “targeted” by the Trump administration “in ways that are unprecedented, including, among them the separation of … children from parents” at the U.S border with Mexico.

A KIND representative said the county funding could enable the group to hire a new staff attorney whose focus is on Montgomery County cases. The organization works with unaccompanied refugee and immigrant children as they face removal proceedings, said Elisabeth Lopez, managing attorney for the Baltimore field office. A grant from the county would help the nonprofit deal with the number of cases headed their way, she said.

“Our program has been at capacity or close to capacity for some time, and regretfully, we’ve had to … refer [clients] to other providers,” she said. “This allows us to open our doors to them once again.”

The council in May decided to set aside the funding for fiscal 2019 and allow organizations that provide legal services to immigrants who live in the county to apply for the money. The original plan was to award about $374,000 to the Capital Area Immigrant Rights’ Coalition. The coalition withdrew its funding request after county leaders crafted a lengthy list of criminal convictions—ranging from murder and rape to fraud and burglary—that would disqualify an immigrant from receiving county-supported legal aid. The group was concerned the list of crimes would exclude too many people from receiving the legal services.

Here’s the breakdown of the county’s funding recommendation for the three nonprofits:

    • $144,000 to Ayuda, which estimates the funding would enable it to screen 100 clients and represent about 33 Montgomery County residents. The nonprofit offers legal, social and language access services and annually manages about 3,100 cases for low-income immigrants in the D.C. area;
    • $103,000 to HIAS, which expects to conduct between 210 and 420 screenings and provide representation to 18 clients. The Silver Spring-based organization specializes in providing representation to asylum-seekers in the United States and offered 65 Montgomery County residents legal aid from July 2017 to July 2018. Clients are mostly women, children and families from Central America, according to a county staff report;
    • $123,000 to KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), which expects the money will allow it to represent 60 children. The organization partners with law firms, corporate legal departments, law schools and bar associations to offer legal aid to refugees and immigrant children and is currently providing representation to 92 unaccompanied minors in Montgomery County.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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