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LA Officials Unveil $10 Million Legal Defense Fund For Immigrants Facing Deportation

LOS ANGELES ( — Mayor Eric Garcetti and other officials on Monday unveiled a $10 million legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation proceedings without a lawyer.

The LA Justice Fund will fund nonprofit legal service groups that represent immigrants facing deportation proceedings in LA County, according to an announcement posted online by the California Community Foundation. It will also support pilot programs that seek to expand the pool of immigration attorneys available to those immigrants.

The fund will focus on helping immigrants in the county under temporary status such as the Deferred Access for Childhood Arrivals program, military families, refugees and unaccompanied minors, but not immigrants with serious criminal histories, Garcetti said.

LA County is committing $3 million to the effort and the city of Los Angeles is expected to contribute $2 million from its general fund. The rest of the money will come from donors.

The fund is the latest step taken by LA officials to protest President-elect Donald Trump's plan to deport between two and three million undocumented immigrants. Last month, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the department will not help with federal "deportation efforts." The LAUSD has also said it will not turn over data about students and families to federal authorities.

"Partners in this effort are committed to standing by our most vulnerable communities in Los Angeles County and we share values of promoting social and racial justice," the announcement said. "Our region's immigrant communities have heightened fears about the threat of deportation amid anti-immigrant rhetoric."

Los Angeles is a so-called sanctuary city, a loosely defined term for cities that grant protections to undocumented immigrants. Trump has warned that he could cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities for services such as public housing.

Immigration rights activists, unions and legal organizations have meanwhile increased their calls for the creation of an immigrants' legal defense fund since Trump's election, the Times reported.

The fund is a partnership between the city of Los Angeles, LA County, the California Community Foundation, the Weingart Foundation and the California Endowment

City Attorney Mike Feuer said he did not believe there was any legal risk for the city to contribute to the fund, and said its purpose is to promote fairness in the immigration system. He said statistics show immigrants facing deportation proceedings without a lawyer are five times more likely to be deported that those with representation.

The fund plans to begin work in early 2017.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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