By Jamie Leary
DENVER (CBS4) – Denver will set aside $200,000 to help immigrants facing deportation or other proceedings.
City councilors voted Monday night to increase the budget for a legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation and other legal issues.
Earlier this year, Mayor Michael Hancock proposed using $100,000 from a contingency fund for that purpose. Besides doubling the amount, city councilors also voted to create a specific line item for the defense fund.
The vote does not change the mayor’s overall budget but instead, moves funding around. It took two specific votes to do so.
The first vote passed 9-4 and transferred $100,000 out of the general contingency fund set up by Hancock into the Human Rights and Community Partnership Office for the Immigrant Legal Defense Fund.
The second vote passed 8-to-5 and transferred an additional $100,000 from the general fund to the legal defense fund, bringing the total to $200,000.
A spokeswoman for the mayor, Jenna Espinoza, says the mayor will accept the budget changes.
“We respect council’s vote to move on the funding for the legal defense fund and will accept this amendment. Since August, we’ve been convening work groups of city staff and community stakeholders to determine the best structure, including funding mechanisms, for the legal defense fund,” said Espinoza. “These work groups will be proposing well-vetted recommendations for a comprehensive plan later this month. The work to establish a structure and additional funding mechanisms, including private-sector and philanthropic support, will continue.”
Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman with District 5 says she is not opposed to the idea, but Monday night voted “no” to both amendments. She says there is no clear framework showing how the legal defense fund will work.
“My concern was with appropriating money when we didn’t know the parameters of how it was going be spent, who is going spend it, under what circumstances… it just didn’t see like a wise way to legislate,” said Susman.
The idea behind the fund is that it will help pay for legal services provided by area nonprofits.
While it’s a win for immigration advocates who pushed for the increased funding, it’s still not clear which organizations will be eligible.
“That was part of my issue with not voting for it. We don’t know who will be eligible to be receiving it. We don’t know under what circumstances they would be eligible to receive it,” said Susman. “I think we haven’t quite figured out with all the lawyers whether it can be spent that way.”
A panel is studying how the fund will work and how the money will be distributed.
The city’s entire budget faces a final vote on Nov. 13.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.