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Taxpayer funding for deportation defense of violent felon immigrants proposed

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(The Center Square) – California is proposing funding deportation defense for illegal immigrants convicted of violent or serious felonies. Under existing law, state funds already allocated for providing deportation defense to illegal immigrants explicitly exclude such individuals.

“For as long as I have been in state office, I have worked towards ensuring people are given a second chance and have championed efforts to prevent people from being treated as second-class individuals,” said Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, in a statement. “The REP for All Immigrants Act ensures racial justice and truly equitable access to crucial immigration services for all – not some.”

Jones-Sawyer’s AB 2031 would expand the One California Immigration Services Funding Program. California created OCIS in 2015 to provide legal services to “indigent” immigrants — those classified as extremely impoverished — expanded the program in 2021 to include coverage for DACA recipients. The program currently provides a wide range of immigration-related legal services through grants to nonprofits that provide government-type services, otherwise known as non-governmental organizations.

Jones-Sawyer’s bill eliminates OCIS funding being used for those “who has been convicted of, or who is currently appealing a conviction for, a violent or serious felony” and replaces language in existing funding allowing funding of “postconviction relief” with “relief that vacates, eliminates, or reduces a criminal record, conviction, or sentence that may have adverse immigration consequences”

Under the 2022 Racial Justice Act, illegal immigrants can petition to overturn their convictions if the convictions will lead to adverse immigration proceeding consequences. If passed, AB 2031 would provide state funding for illegal immigrants to pursue this new conviction, trial, and sentencing appeal pathway created by RJA.

California Democrats “are pushing a bill for illegal immigrants convicted of violent felonies to receive taxpayer-funded legal aid & avoid deportation,” said Assemblymember Kate Sanchez, R-Trabuco Canyon, in a statement. “AB 2031 is completely unacceptable.”

Jones-Sawyer introduced a similar bill in 2023 that was introduced, but was not placed on the docket to receive a hearing.

California hosts approximately 93,600 state prisoners and 54,500 county jail inmates. According to state reports, each prisoner costs taxpayers approximately $111,446 per year. If one in five federal prisoners are illegal immigrants, assuming a similar rate at the state level means the state may be spending approximately $3.3 billion per year imprisoning illegal immigrants.

The state faces a $73 billion budget deficit for the 2024-2025 fiscal year.

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