DENVER – The city’s much-discussed legal defense fund meant to help immigrants facing deportation or needing other immigration services was officially launched Monday, with $385,000 in its coffers to begin with.
The Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund comes out of an executive order Mayor Michael Hancock made last year that both established the fund and ordered city and county employees not to aid federal immigration agents in arresting people without a warrant.
After some pushback, the mayor worked with the city council to put money for the fund in the city’s budget, and the council also passed an ordinance that put into law other immigrant protections Hancock and some others have sought since the Trump administration took office, increased its immigration enforcement and called Denver a sanctuary city while threatening to withhold federal grant money.
“This fund will further our ability to meet a core mission – to preserve and protect families and children living in Denver,” Hancock said Monday in a statement announcing the launch of the defense fund.
More than half the money for the fund ($200,000) will come from the city’s general fund, and another $50,000 will come from its support fund, according to the city.
Denver also announced Monday that an additional $100,000 had been pledged to the fund in the form of a grant from the Vera Institutes Safety & Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Cities Network, and that the city had joined the network. The Denver Foundation, which will administer the money, pledged $5,000 to the fund, while the remaining $30,000 comes from the Rose Community Foundation.
The money will all be meant for nonprofits that provide legal representation to city residents who are in the midst of deportation and removal proceedings with federal immigration officials, or who are in the process of gaining immigration representation in the forms of DACA, visas or naturalization, among other reasons.
Some of the grant money will also go to expanding pro-bono and low-cost legal services for attorneys willing to participate.
A seven-member advisory committee made up primarily of immigration activists and attorneys will pick which nonprofits receive the money, and the fund will also accept private, nonprofit and corporate donations, which will be tax-deductible, that can be made to the Denver Foundation.
Council members Paul Lopez and Robin Kniech, who led the immigration pushes in the city council, both praised the final launch of the fund at Monday’s news conference.
“These services are critical to protecting the city’s interest in keeping families together and preventing unnecessary disruption to our local economy,” Kniech said.
“Keeping families together and honoring the right to due process for all people are core values in our city,” Lopez said in a statement. “We stand proud in establishing the Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund to defend those values.”