County kicks in $3.5M for immigrant support

Supervisors OK funds for legal assistance, rights education ahead of federal crackdown

Fearing a zealous immigration crackdown by the new administration in Washington, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to commit millions of dollars toward boosting legal services for immigrants facing deportation proceedings. The decision comes after months of deliberation on how much money to set aside for legal support, and whether county funds ought to support immigrants convicted of serious and violent felonies.

In a unanimous vote, supervisors agreed to devote $2.9 million in county funds for hiring attorneys to represent immigrants in need of legal assistance, including representation for those facing deportation and for immigrants seeking to become legal residents. Another $400,000 will be spent on a "Know Your Rights" campaign to educate immigrants on legal, housing, employment, refugee and tenant rights, and $200,000 will go towards a media campaign aimed at alerting residents about issues affecting the immigrant community.

Supervisors began hatching a plan to support the immigrant community in early December, citing a need to bolster legal services for county residents vulnerable to a mass deportation effort under President Donald Trump, who made such an operation a central theme of his campaign. Supervisor Joe Simitian urged the county to move quickly to prepare for "potential abuses" that might come with a massive increase in the types of immigrants targeted for deportation.

"The activity at the federal level is already being ramped up," Simitian said at a Feb. 28 Board of Supervisors meeting. "I've mentioned my concerns that the (Trump) administration would be overzealous, and I think that concern has been realized and demonstrated."

A crackdown by federal immigration enforcement could have a profound effect on Santa Clara County, which is home to between 120,000 and 183,500 undocumented immigrants, according to estimates by the Pew Research Center and the Public Policy Institute of California. What's more, federal enforcement could extend to anyone who is not a U.S. citizen, including more than 100,000 green card holders and 400,000 residents with some combination of non-immigrant visas, according to a county report.

Unlike the process followed in the criminal court system, immigrants facing deportation proceedings are not guaranteed legal representation if they cannot afford to hire an attorney. Immigrants without representation are far less likely to prevail in immigration court and to be granted asylum.

California's Legislature could also be heading down the same path. Senate Bill 6, introduced in December, would put $12 million towards legal services for immigrants who "are not otherwise entitled to legal representation under an existing local, state, or federal program." Although the bill could eventually help immigrants facing deportation here in Santa Clara County, Simitian said the county ought to move ahead with its own plans instead of waiting for potential matching funds from the state and private funding.

"I'm getting a little bit itchy about when we're going to start doing more and talking less," he said. "We started work ahead of the curve, but at the risk of stating the obvious, we've got people who need help right now and they need it pretty seriously."

Though Trump's campaign rhetoric on deportation focused on Latino immigrants -- particularly from Mexico -- Simitian encouraged the county to make a concerted effort to help minority groups within the immigrant community as well. Immigrants fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria may not be high on the list of priorities because their numbers are small, he said, but that doesn't mean they should be left out.

In the case of the Know Your Rights campaign, the county will be contracting with organizations that have good access to "hard-to-reach immigrant populations, including geographically isolated or dispersed groups, as well as small immigrant populations such as Armenians, Iranians, Ukrainians, Russians, and those hailing from the former Yugoslavia," according to the staff report.

With a finite amount of resources to go around, supervisors grappled with the question of whether to fund legal representation for all immigrants, or to exclude people who have been convicted of serious or violent felonies. A letter signed by 24 organizations including the Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto and Immigrant Services of Mountain View urged supervisors to include all classes of immigrants regardless of individuals' criminal background.

Old convictions can have devastating consequences, said Beth Chance, the in-house immigration lawyer at the Santa Clara County Public Defender's Office. Long-term, lawful permanent residents who have had green cards for most of their lives go to apply for naturalization, she said, only to find out that an old conviction has put them directly into removal proceedings. These convictions can include "crimes of language" -- such as criminal threats or dissuading a witness -- as well as an old bar fight or a burglary when someone was still a teenager, she said.

"The Constitution does not differentiate between who deserves due process and who doesn't," she said.

But Supervisor Dave Cortese said he couldn't back the idea of using county dollars to defend immigrants facing deportation when they have been convicted of violent felonies, which include murder, rape, and other felonies punishable by death or life in prison. At some point the county has to draw the line, he said, and he urged people to be "realistic" about the scope of the legal assistance.

"I can't in good conscience say that some of these crimes, which would in effect have someone locked up for life, merit an investment of limited taxpayer money for deportation defense," Cortese said.

Despite the calls for an all-inclusive policy, supervisors ultimately voted for a compromise. The funding will not go to support immigrants who have been convicted of a violent felony and finished their sentence within the last five years; but immigrants convicted of a serious felony -- a designation that includes a list of 42 charges including assault, robbery and kidnapping -- will be included in the scope of the plan.

Simitian, who supported the motion, said the debate about whether to exclude immigrants convicted of criminal offenses goes to a larger question about who, if anyone, should be deported. During a discussion in late 2015 on whether Santa Clara County ought to cooperate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Simitian was in the minority in supporting deportation for immigrants convicted of serious or violent felonies.

"It was my view, and it remains my view, that if someone has come to this country unlawfully, is in our custody, has been convicted of a serious or violent felony, and we are approached by ICE to cooperate, we should cooperate," Simitian said at a January meeting.

When it comes to legal representation, however, Simitian said everyone ought to get a fair hearing. The court system may not genuinely understand the circumstance of each immigrant convicted of a crime, he said, or it's possible that they got caught up in a system that has brushed their rights aside.

"Innocent people don't need representation as much as guilty people do," Simitian said. "The larger question is are we prepared to make sure everyone who goes through the system is treated with the kind of fairness and equity we would want for ourselves or any member of our family."


9 people like this
Posted by BD
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 16, 2017 at 10:54 am

Good call! Everyone should know their rights and have access to a lawyer when they need one. Legal protections aren't worth anything if we don't know about them or can't use them.

49 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 16, 2017 at 11:10 am

Obviously we have given Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors too much money over the years since they have plenty to spare on folks who break the law by coming here illegally. Dear Supervisors, are so confident that you have done everything for the LEGAL residents and taxpayers in your power and you now have money to spare on charity to foreigners? Since when was it within your mandate to be responsible for the foreign aid?

That being the case, rest assured that last election was the last time I voted for any parcel tax or bond issue measure in Santa Clara. Why bother? It won't be going towards the potholes or traffic improvements in my neighborhood. It will be going to support a liberal agenda in contravening of the laws of this country.

And I have noted the names of every supervisor to make sure I do the right thing next time your names come up in an election.

45 people like this
Posted by MAS
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2017 at 11:53 am

Come to America. Don't bother with legal entry because no matter how you come we will provide a free education, free healthcare and free legal advice.

An illegal immigrant wouldn't be facing legal proceedings but for their action to enter or stay in the country illegally.

The fact they cannot hire an attorney to defend them from their action shouldn't mean my tax dollars go to provide that service.

We have a lot of needs in this county. This shouldn't have made the cut.

45 people like this
Posted by Citizen84
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Citizen84 is a registered user.

Dear County Supervisor Joe Simitian, Sir.

Respectfully, the citizens of this country that both elected you and gave you money to spend on our community.

How do you and, the rest of the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, figure that you have the right to give OUR hard earned tax money on legal and other help illegal immigrants? The people who broke the law by definition? Never spent a dime on our community?

If you are so concerned, be my guest - donate your own money to the cause that you like best. What gives you the right to be so generous with OUR money??

Joe, what the hell are you thinking?

We'll remember in November, Joe.

19 people like this
Posted by Frank Richards
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 16, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Frank Richards is a registered user.


The people and families being targeted in these unnecessary raids are, in fact, members of our community. They are your friends, your children's friend and family, your neighbors. They sit with you in church, shop at the store with you. They cook your food, clean your tables. To say that they aren't members of your community just because they've broken the law is disgusting.

You've never broken the law? There are speed limits posted all around, and I've yet to meet someone who doesn't willfully exceed it, but we don't cast out these law-breakers as not being members of our community.

19 people like this
Posted by Hope
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Hope is a registered user.

I agree with Frank Richards, and I would add that undocumented WORKERS pay taxes every time they buy something, employers withhold taxes from their pay-and they even pay into Social Security with no hope of ever collecting.

Look around you, who will do the jobs that undocumented workers do? I'd much rather spend my tax dollars helping people that deporting hard working families.

There are more gang members who are citizens than aren't.

Thank you Joe Simitian. Your actions fit with my American principles of due process.

38 people like this
Posted by Citizen84
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Citizen84 is a registered user.

Dear Frank,

Indeed I am holding in my hand a wad of speeding tickets that I sill waiting for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to do something about. But I am not holding my breadth. Somehow I do not think that the Board will come to my rescue.

How did we ended up with foreigners breaking the law and being aided and abetted by our own elected officials with OUR money who were presumably elected to uphold law and order and protect the citizens of this country?

Illegal immigration is NOT a victimless crime. I am an immigrant myself. I see and talk to many, many people who have tried to come to this country and found it impossible in part BECAUSE we are flooded by the illegals.

Whatever you think about US immigration policy, it's simply indefensible to be spending public money to promote ILLEGAL acts.

What's the logic here? there are seven Billion people on this earth. most of them do not have opportunities of the likes we still have here in the Bay Area. Should we welcome them ALL in?

That attitude comes from the same officials who tell us that there is not enough water and other resources in California to accommodate our population growth or highway congestion.

Our elected officials should do their job. Not try to solve world problems. That's what WE give them money for.

33 people like this
Posted by LikeToWatch
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 16, 2017 at 3:40 pm

LikeToWatch is a registered user.

It is time to take legal action against the Board of Supervisors for misuse of taxpayer dollars. As a citizen taxpayer, I never authorized use of my tax money to pay for illegal residents. And stop this "undocumented immigrant" pablum... they are illegal aliens.

25 people like this
Posted by tiredofthehype
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 16, 2017 at 3:49 pm

tiredofthehype is a registered user.

@Frank Richards,

First off, I am not aware of any "unnecessary raids" occurring in this county. If there have been some "unnecessary raids" locally, please provide that information to the readers. Second, people who break the law and get caught, whether it be speeding or being in this country illegally, should face the type of punishment prescribed in the law. If you get a ticket for speeding, you pay a fine, go to traffic school, add a point to your driving record and risk an increase in your insurance premium. If you come into this country the wrong (illegal) way and get caught, you face deportation. No matter what the circumstance, you do the crime, you do the time. I didn't ask the tax payers to fund the cost of my speeding ticket nor should I have to share in the cost of the legal defense of someone facing deportation, especially if they have a criminal past in this country.


For those "undocumented workers" you refer to, that don't get paid under the table and pay "so called taxes," they are typically using a social security number that legally belongs to someone else, and that person risks being the victim of identity theft and/or face tax problems when the IRS comes after them for not reporting income they had at "their other job." Additionally, a lot of the "undocumented workers" claim a high number of deductions to have the least amount in state and federal taxes taken out of their paycheck, which would cause problems with the IRS if you or I would try to do something like that. But in your world, you should be proud of these "American principles" you hold near and dear to your heart.

21 people like this
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Where do I sign up for free legal services?

Oh wait, I'm a middle-aged, white privileged male that works and pays taxes.

We don't get handouts. We pay for the handouts that other don't earn.

13 people like this
Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 16, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

@Greg David,

There it is, most of the other posters resisted explicitly playing the race card, but you've outdone them.

Glad you didn't make it into the city council, we really avoided a disaster there.

22 people like this
Posted by Citizen84
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Citizen84 is a registered user.

It's a liberal mantra that apparently Randy Guelph subscribes to:

"Everyone who disagrees with you is a RACISTS".

I beg to differ.

My point is, that the government, including Santa Clara County Board, does not have or print its own money. It collects and dispenses the money that belongs to its citizens. To the benefit, presumably, of the above mentioned citizens. Not for the Germans, Mexicans, Guatemalans, Cubans, French, Dutch or whatever.

I am guessing that, any time now, I would be called a fascist?

17 people like this
Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 16, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.


There are several things incorrect in your comment.

A) Greg was the first person to start talking about not getting handouts because he's white. Sounds pretty racist to me, since there's no indication that the legal support being given is being denied to white people.

B) Tax money is collected from residents, not citizens. It should be used to help our community, its residents. Unless you think we should be collecting income, sales, property taxes from non-citizen H1b workers while providing them with no services or protection. That sounds like a terrible community to me, and I would strenuously disagree with you on your vision for Santa Clara County.

14 people like this
Posted by hsnpoor
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2017 at 5:27 pm

hsnpoor is a registered user.

What bothers me about this is the actual earmarking of monies for an event that has not actually happened, but is being ballyhooed as already happening, with no actual citations or proof of such happenings and those who are controlling the monies are politicians who DO have a proven record of setting aside monies that somehow disappear or are not used for their intended purposes. I know that's a very long, run on sentence, but I think you get my drift. This hysteria of "what if" has really got to stop and people need to get a grip. I think it was Jesus who said something about not worrying about tomorrow because today has enough trouble of it's own. He's right.

20 people like this
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

We're not talking about residents that hold H1B visas. We're talking about illegal immigrant CRIMINALS receiving public funding for legal assistance.

As for temporary visa holders that overstay their TEMPORARY visas, how is that the problem of those who abide by the law and pay taxes? If you visa expires, its time to go home.

As for me being a racist, that's a pretty bold accusation. I was simply making a commentary on the ridiculous notion of "white privilege" being the cause of all that is evil in this country.

15 people like this
Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 16, 2017 at 5:38 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

@Greg David,

I was responding to the specific claims of @Citizen84, which we can all agree were poorly reasoned and inaccurate. Everyone within this country's borders is entitled to due process, which includes legal representation.

As to the alleged racism, why was it important for you to bring up your race here? What has been denied to you solely on the basis of being white?

10 people like this
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2017 at 5:50 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

What I have been denied of is NOT being bombarded by the accusation of progressives and the mainstream media that everything I have and earned was because of white privilege and not because of my own hard work.

16 people like this
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2017 at 5:55 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Even the position of the ACLU espouses that illegal immigrant are not entitled to legal representation at goverment (taxpayer) expense.

"Since immigrants don't have the right to enter the U.S., those who are not here legally are subject to deportation. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has the authority to question "any person believed to be an alien as to his right to be in the United States." But in a 1903 case called Yamataya v. Fisher, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the INS could not deport someone without a hearing that meets constitutional due process standards. Since then, procedural rights for undocumented immigrants have evolved so that today, in spite of Congress' attempts to curtail these rights, most people facing deportation are entitled to:

a hearing before an immigration judge and review, in most cases, by a federal court;
representation by a lawyer (but not at government expense);
reasonable notice of charges, and of a hearing's time and place;
a reasonable opportunity to examine the evidence and the government's witnesses;
competent interpretation for non-English speaking immigrants, and
clear and convincing proof that the government's grounds for deportation are valid.

Web Link

19 people like this
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2017 at 7:08 pm

USA is a registered user.

And yet, people here still have no idea why Trump was elected.

Keep it up Democrats. You are making it easy for us to vote you out of office.

15 people like this
Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 16, 2017 at 7:16 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

@USA, you've been schooled on this over and over again. As much as you personally like him, he has the lowest approval rating of any newly elected president. He's flat out unpopular nationwide, and especially in California, and especially in Santa Clara County. Sorry, that's just reality.

To see how this works in the real world, @Greg David above loves Trump's policies, ran for city council, and lost.

11 people like this
Posted by tiredofthehype
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 16, 2017 at 7:55 pm

tiredofthehype is a registered user.

@Randy Guelph,

You are right about one thing....Trump is "flat out unpopular nationwide," with the liberal left and their agenda.

17 people like this
Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 16, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.


Yeah, them and basically everyone else.

How can an agenda have negative opinions about someone?

12 people like this
Posted by Another taxpayer
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 18, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Another taxpayer is a registered user.

All the legal and law abiding taxpayers of Santa Clara county need to initiate a class action lawsuit against the county for fiscal irresponsibility. Using $3.5M of tax money on criminals is a breach of the duty elected officials are bound to follow.

10 people like this
Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

I wonder if the County is going to reimburse me and my wife for our expenses? We paid nearly $5000 in fees for her legal immigration to the United States.

We went through the entire process and even went to the INS office in L.A. before we got started to be sure that we were doing everything correctly and filing all the correct forms so she wouldn't be deported later because of some technicality.

Jim Neal
Old Mountain View

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Redwood City gets new brewery
By Elena Kadvany | 11 comments | 5,883 views

Learning Disabilities and the Struggle to Be Known
By Aldis Petriceks | 0 comments | 1,244 views

Couples: A Relationship Test . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 3 comments | 943 views

Food Party! SOS
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 752 views