The final budget commits $200,000 to fund legal defense for immigrants facing deportation, expanding the City’s commitment to provide access to justice
PHILADELPHIA—Thursday, June 25, Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large) lauded the expansion of the City’s historic funding of a legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation. As a part of the movement to ensure a fair day in court for every immigrant, Council’s final budget doubles the city’s investment to $200,000 in Fiscal Year 2021. The Samuel S. Fels Fund has invested an additional $300,000 to match the City’s increased annual commitment over the course of three years. The monies all support deportation defense through the Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project (PAIFUP), a program advocated for by Councilmember Gym, who also led the effort to increase its funding in the current budget.
In addition to Councilmember Gym, funding for PAIFUP was supported by Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), and Derek Green (At-Large), as well as Council President Darrell Clarke (5th District) and Mayor Kenney’s administration. The funding was removed in the Mayor’s revised budget proposal before being restored by City Council.
“I am glad that so many council members came together to ensure the Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project (PAIFUP) will continue to thrive,” said Councilmember Helen Gym. “With this investment, Philadelphia continues to be at the forefront of expanding protections to our families and communities in a time of grave injustice.
“The right to a fair trial is a fundamental principle of the American justice system, and I am proud that Philadelphia is stepping up in this moment to ensure that our immigrant neighbors will have access to legal representation in federal immigration court. Our immigrant neighbors, who have been left out of so many relief programs, can rest assured that the city will continue to do everything possible to protect their rights,” Councilmember Gym said.
Philadelphia’s support for the Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project (PAIFUP) has already proven successful at defending the rights of immigrants. PAIFUP’s services are provided by two legal service providers, the Nationalities Service Center (NSC) in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center (PIRC) in York, PA. The two organizations are representing people detained at York and Pike County Prisons.
“In the program’s early phases, all but one of PIRC’s clients have secured release from detention. Nationally, studies have shown that access to representation can make it 3.5 times more likely to be released from detention and ten times more likely to win the right to remain in the United States,” said Emiliano Rodríguez, member of PAIFUP.
“NSC has been proud to be a part of the PAIFUP collaborative, working with organizations around the Commonwealth to take these critical first steps in providing universal representation for everyone placed in deportation proceedings but who cannot afford a lawyer,” said Jonah Eaton, PAIFUP Supervising Attorney, Nationalities Service Center.
Last July, Philadelphia announced a new partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice’s Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Network, becoming one of 18 cities and counties across the United States dedicated to the goal of providing universal representation for people facing deportation. To launch the legal defense initiative, the City of Philadelphia allocated $100,000 in Fiscal Year 2020, matched by one-time $100,000 catalyst funding from the Vera Institute. That City funding is now doubling, to leverage a major new grant from the Fels Foundation.
“This is an unusually large grant for our foundation to make but these are unusual times. We hope that foundations, families, individuals and county governments across Pennsylvania will join in supporting these efforts, ” added Sarah Martinez-Helfman, President of The Samuel S. Fels Fund.
“The Vera Institute of Justice applauds the City of Philadelphia for continuing its national leadership in support of safety, due process, and family unity by restoring funding for its landmark deportation defense pilot program, the Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project (PAIFUP),” said Annie Chen, Program Director for Vera’s Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Network. “Even during a national public health crisis, federal attacks on immigrants continue unabated and immigrants of color face aggressive policing in Black and brown communities, making them even more vulnerable to detention and deportation.”
“Thanks to the powerful support and persistence of Councilmembers Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, Kenyatta Johnson, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, and Derek Green, PAIFUP lawyers will continue to be on the frontlines, fighting alongside their clients for freedom from dangerous detention centers, due process in their court proceedings, and the safe return to their families and communities,” Chen said.