The Cambridge Community Foundation (CCF) has created a legal fund to help low-income immigrants facing deportation.
CCF announced in August that the Cambridge Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants will distribute $150,000 to help undocumented people in immigration court. The fund, which was created in March, is the response of CCF and Cambridge mayor Marc McGovern to increasingly aggressive Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) policies.
The immigration system has been broken for a long time. Over his eight years in office, former President Barack Obama deported 2.7 million people. President Donald Trump was elected after running a campaign in which blatantly racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric was used to appeal to many Americans’ xenophobia and outright hatred. Since his election, Trump has followed through on his campaign promises with discriminatory policies such as family separation, and the Muslim ban.
“As a sanctuary city, the federal government has threatened cities like Cambridge with federal funding cutbacks,” Geeta Pradhan, President and CEO of the Cambridge Community Foundation said. “The Cambridge Community Foundation, as a local community foundation, came to the forefront and responded quickly.”
At a press conference at McGovern’s office, Pradhan said the legal fund was established on March 5. The deadline for applications was Sept. 13, and the grant period began on Oct. 1.
Pradhan added that the CCF board met and approved the initiative, and that a group of local family funds contributed seed money to jumpstart the online fundraising campaign.
“Our legal defense fund is a grassroots effort to raise funds to help people facing immigration problems, compared to our sister city of Boston which has a fund built with foundation support,” Pradhan said. “Donations have been as small as $5 and as large as $50,000.”
Several small local family funds have contributed major funding. The Louis Foundation contributed $50,000, the Why Wait Fund contributed 5,000, the Johnson Family Fund added S2,500 and the C donated $1,000.
According to Pradhan, immigration issues such as deportation, and attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program directly affect people in Cambridge every day.
“The U. S. Census data shows that the city population is one-third immigrant,” Pradhan said. “Forty percent of the children of our city have a foreign born parent.”
Pradhan said that U.S. is a country of immigrants, and that the immigration touches all people in Cambridge.
“The most important people that we want to help are those at risk of removal from America or those whom have received a notice of a court appeal facilitated by ICE. They are followed by people facing the deportation process and then those deemed at risk of deportation in the future,” Pradhan said.
Pradhan said the CCF hopes to help a couple hundred families, approximately 400 to 500 people. The fund will prioritize those who live, work, or study in the city. Pradhan said the CCF is also interested in helping some of the municipalities surrounding Cambridge with vulnerable immigrant populations.
“A legal defense lawyer that I spoke to said it takes on average 150 to 200 hours per case,” Pradhan said. “The lawyer stated that the non pro-bono hourly rate is $100 to $150.”
Pradhan said that the CCF is holding forums citywide to attract people and funding.
“Our objective is to keep the fund open,” Pradhan said. “Our other goals focus on educating and keeping the conversation on immigration moving.”
Lauren Marshall, CCF Director of Marketing and Civic Engagement, noted that the needs that the Cambridge Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants is trying to meet aren’t going to wane any time soon, making the campaign’s existence vital for the foreseeable future.
“Immigration problems are very pressing,” Marshall said. “The need to keep the fund open
is very important and responsible.”
Robert Sondak is a writer and vendor for Spare Change News.