Contra Costa County won’t expand a program that offers free legal representation to immigrants facing the threat of deportation.
In a 3-2 vote, the county Board of Supervisors held off giving $1.8 million to Stand Together Contra Costa, a program in the public defender’s office that had sought to add three full-time attorneys, three legal assistants and other services.
In recent years, the county has eased off its relationship with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement despite Sheriff David Livingston’s vocal resistance to the shifting political belief that undocumented immigration is not criminal behavior.
At an annual budget hearing earlier this year, the supervisors used federal COVID-19 money to double the budget of a program that, in part, offers health care to undocumented immigrants. But they didn’t leave any room for providing legal defense against deportation.
And despite Public Defender Ellen McDonnell’s pitch at a meeting Tuesday for more money right away, the supervisors decided not to go out of their way to find new funds and instead return to the discussion next spring when budget talks come back around.
“Just as we do not defend criminals in federal criminal courts, we should not be taking this role as the county public defender’s office,” Supervisor Candace Andersen said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I would prefer to see Stand Together created as a nonprofit in the community, because I believe they would be able to do a lot more fundraising through charitable contributions,” she added.