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Immigrants Hope New Legal Services Fund Provides 'Better Opportunity'

By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – City leaders announced a new immigrant legal services fund Monday that will help people who may face deportation.

The fund will be supported by taxpayer dollars along with grants and private donations.

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Juan Gallegos (credit: CBS)

"My parents left everything they knew behind to give my brothers and I a better life," said Juan Gallegos, a supporter of the new fund. "A better opportunity here in the U.S."

Gallegos is the director of civic engagement and legal services for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. He shared his story at a news conference on the steps of the City and County Building.

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(credit: Juan Gallegos)

"My dad fell into deportation proceedings," Gallegos said. "It was a really tough time for my family."

He said his family could afford the fees and lawyers needed to keep his father in the country, a total of $15,000. But he knows many families do not have access to those resources.

"Things are really rough in the place where I was born," he told CBS4. "Having my dad have to go back to that would be really awful."

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(credit: CBS)

Mayor Michael Hancock and other city leaders announced that $250,000 will come from the city including the general fun and Denver's Support Fund.

The Denver Foundation will administer the fund and is also contributing $5,000 while the Rose Community Foundation is donating $30,000. Denver will also become one of 12 cities in the SAFE Cities Network and receive $100,000 from the Vera Institute, which operates SAFE or Safety and Fairness for Everyone.

"Right now we have the tragedy of families needlessly being ripped apart," said Hancock. "We as a nation and a city, can and must do much better than that."

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(credit: CBS)

City leaders defended the use of taxpayer dollars for this fund. They argued that immigrants in the country illegally are contributing to the economy as five percent of the Denver's workforce.

The city would suffer if all those people left at once, they explained. The lack of immigration reform by the federal government requires action at the local level, city leaders added.

"We're going to do whatever is necessary to fill that gap," said Councilman Paul Lopez, District 3. "We're going to put our money where our mouth is."

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CBS4's Shawn Chitnis interviews Juan Gallegos. (credit: CBS)

Gallegos proudly supports the fund because he is a DACA applicant waiting to see what will happen to that program.

"I might be the person that might some day need those funds," he said.

Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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