Undocumented immigrants deserve lawyers


Graphic by Emma Davis.

By Staff Editorial

Undocumented immigrants often live in constant fear of deportation and losing the lives they’ve built in the U.S., and these fears have only escalated in the past year. Since taking office, President Donald Trump has decreased funding for programs like DACA and Court Appointed Special Advocates that provide legal consultations for immigrants and help them apply for green cards. Without financial support for these programs, it’s harder for immigrants to become permanent residents.

To safeguard immigrants’ rights, the Montgomery County Council approved a proposal May 22, allocating tax dollars to fund legal representation for undocumented immigrants.

The approval was controversial among both legal immigrants and immigration advocacy groups who initially supported the proposal. Legal immigrants believe the proposal encourages undocumented immigrants to ignore immigration laws by providing them with free legal services. Immigrant rights organizations argue that the county State’s Attorney’s updates to the list of criminal convictions, which disqualify 70 percent of undocumented immigrants from receiving aid, gutted the proposal.

Undocumented immigrants have generally been supported in Maryland. The state House of Representatives passed a law May 26 allowing undocumented immigrant students who graduated from a Maryland high school to pay in-state tuition for colleges in Maryland. The bill also reduces restrictions placed on immigrant students who want to transfer to four-year colleges.

The recent developments in our county and state should be commended. Immigrants are an essential part of our community, and the government should protect families from separation.

The increased presence of immigrants benefits our communities. They have jobs that play an essential role in our communities and the economy, pay taxes, work in local businesses and even start their own. Immigrants increase the number of workers in the labor force and expand workforce productivity, and immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $776 billion in 2012, the Fiscal Policy Institute found.  

Similar programs that connect immigrants to lawyers have also reunited many families. Since New York implemented its Immigration Family Unity Project in 2017, 750 parents who were previously detained and separated from their kids have been reunited with their children within three years, reported the Vera Institute of Justice report. Although the Council only recently approved Montgomery County’s proposal, it has the potential to keep many immigrant families together.

The Trump administration has continued to promote stricter immigration policies. Now more than ever, we need to value the immigrants in our communities, and the county’s recent proposal does just that. The efforts on the part of Montgomery County and the state of Maryland are important first steps towards creating a more welcoming community.