County kicks in $3.5M for immigrant support

Supervisors OK funds for legal assistance, rights education ahead of federal crackdown

Fearing a zealous immigration crackdown by the new administration in Washington, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to commit millions of dollars toward boosting legal services for immigrants facing deportation proceedings. The decision comes after months of deliberation on how much money to set aside for legal support, and whether county funds ought to support immigrants convicted of serious and violent felonies.

In a unanimous vote, supervisors agreed to devote $2.9 million in county funds for hiring attorneys to represent immigrants in need of legal assistance, including representation for those facing deportation and for immigrants seeking to become legal residents. Another $400,000 will be spent on a "Know Your Rights" campaign to educate immigrants on legal, housing, employment, refugee and tenant rights, and $200,000 will go towards a media campaign aimed at alerting residents about issues affecting the immigrant community.

Supervisors began hatching a plan to support the immigrant community in early December, citing a need to bolster legal services for county residents vulnerable to a mass deportation effort under President Donald Trump, who made such an operation a central theme of his campaign. Supervisor Joe Simitian urged the county to move quickly to prepare for "potential abuses" that might come with a massive increase in the types of immigrants targeted for deportation.

"The activity at the federal level is already being ramped up," Simitian said at a Feb. 28 Board of Supervisors meeting. "I've mentioned my concerns that the (Trump) administration would be overzealous, and I think that concern has been realized and demonstrated."

A crackdown by federal immigration enforcement could have a profound effect on Santa Clara County, which is home to between 120,000 and 183,500 undocumented immigrants, according to estimates by the Pew Research Center and the Public Policy Institute of California. What's more, federal enforcement could extend to anyone who is not a U.S. citizen, including more than 100,000 green card holders and 400,000 residents with some combination of non-immigrant visas, according to a county report.

Unlike the process followed in the criminal court system, immigrants facing deportation proceedings are not guaranteed legal representation if they cannot afford to hire an attorney. Immigrants without representation are far less likely to prevail in immigration court and to be granted asylum.

California's Legislature could also be heading down the same path. Senate Bill 6, introduced in December, would put $12 million towards legal services for immigrants who "are not otherwise entitled to legal representation under an existing local, state, or federal program." Although the bill could eventually help immigrants facing deportation here in Santa Clara County, Simitian said the county ought to move ahead with its own plans instead of waiting for potential matching funds from the state and private funding.

"I'm getting a little bit itchy about when we're going to start doing more and talking less," he said. "We started work ahead of the curve, but at the risk of stating the obvious, we've got people who need help right now and they need it pretty seriously."

Though Trump's campaign rhetoric on deportation focused on Latino immigrants -- particularly from Mexico -- Simitian encouraged the county to make a concerted effort to help minority groups within the immigrant community as well. Immigrants fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria may not be high on the list of priorities because their numbers are small, he said, but that doesn't mean they should be left out.

In the case of the Know Your Rights campaign, the county will be contracting with organizations that have good access to "hard-to-reach immigrant populations, including geographically isolated or dispersed groups, as well as small immigrant populations such as Armenians, Iranians, Ukrainians, Russians, and those hailing from the former Yugoslavia," according to the staff report.

With a finite amount of resources to go around, supervisors grappled with the question of whether to fund legal representation for all immigrants, or to exclude people who have been convicted of serious or violent felonies. A letter signed by 24 organizations including the Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto and Immigrant Services of Mountain View urged supervisors to include all classes of immigrants regardless of individuals' criminal background.

Old convictions can have devastating consequences, said Beth Chance, the in-house immigration lawyer at the Santa Clara County Public Defender's Office. Long-term, lawful permanent residents who have had green cards for most of their lives go to apply for naturalization, she said, only to find out that an old conviction has put them directly into removal proceedings. These convictions can include "crimes of language" -- such as criminal threats or dissuading a witness -- as well as an old bar fight or a burglary when someone was still a teenager, she said.

"The Constitution does not differentiate between who deserves due process and who doesn't," she said.

But Supervisor Dave Cortese said he couldn't back the idea of using county dollars to defend immigrants facing deportation when they have been convicted of violent felonies, which include murder, rape, and other felonies punishable by death or life in prison. At some point the county has to draw the line, he said, and he urged people to be "realistic" about the scope of the legal assistance.

"I can't in good conscience say that some of these crimes, which would in effect have someone locked up for life, merit an investment of limited taxpayer money for deportation defense," Cortese said.

Despite the calls for an all-inclusive policy, supervisors ultimately voted for a compromise. The funding will not go to support immigrants who have been convicted of a violent felony and finished their sentence within the last five years; but immigrants convicted of a serious felony -- a designation that includes a list of 42 charges including assault, robbery and kidnapping -- will be included in the scope of the plan.

Simitian, who supported the motion, said the debate about whether to exclude immigrants convicted of criminal offenses goes to a larger question about who, if anyone, should be deported. During a discussion in late 2015 on whether Santa Clara County ought to cooperate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Simitian was in the minority in supporting deportation for immigrants convicted of serious or violent felonies.

"It was my view, and it remains my view, that if someone has come to this country unlawfully, is in our custody, has been convicted of a serious or violent felony, and we are approached by ICE to cooperate, we should cooperate," Simitian said at a January meeting.

When it comes to legal representation, however, Simitian said everyone ought to get a fair hearing. The court system may not genuinely understand the circumstance of each immigrant convicted of a crime, he said, or it's possible that they got caught up in a system that has brushed their rights aside.

"Innocent people don't need representation as much as guilty people do," Simitian said. "The larger question is are we prepared to make sure everyone who goes through the system is treated with the kind of fairness and equity we would want for ourselves or any member of our family."


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


12 people like this
Posted by Another Dean
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2017 at 3:14 pm

While this goes beyond Palo Alto, it does utilize the tax monies of all taxpayers in Santa Clara County.

I don't disagree with assisting the people who are here needing legal assistance to establish their permanent residence here. I don't know the name of the person who made this statement, but: The value of a country is the difference in the number of people wanting to get into it vs the number wanting to get out.

I have many friends and acquaintances who came to America because it is the best country in the world, and most of them believe in the correct legal process that was established many years ago, because that is the only way in their eyes that we can keep America as the best country in the world. They don't like what the politicians are doing to open the doors to anyone. Many of these people are Muslim, and took many years to jump through all the hoops and get all their legal papers in order, to qualify. Some are even family members, and they are more adamant about the people meeting the requirements than many of President Trump's staff.

What it comes down to, is the people of Santa Clara County should get the opportunity to vote on these kinds of money allocations. The County Commissioners, should not have the authority to allocate funds that may or may not have the approval of the taxpayers of the County. This is a very political football, which appears to align itself with a distaste for the duly elected Presidents policies. It is just another effort to place roadblocks in the way of a President.

We accepted the election of all previous presidents, honoring their election without all of the complaints and legal manoeuvering. It is high time we get on with our lives, and leave the politicians to their legal and illegal intrusions into our lives.


7 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2017 at 5:07 pm

This is just one more reason that the Trump administration will zero out California. Will our county and state pick up the tax burdens to walk their talk? Even limo-libs won't be willing to write checks big enough to fund the gap.

4 people like this
Posted by Zero
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 16, 2017 at 5:21 pm


As much of a fantasy it is of conservatives to have a strongman come in and do whatever they want, that's not how the U.S. government works. Trump is certainly free to withhold allocated funds from areas that don't cooperate with his immigration enforcement priorities, but which funds he can withhold is quite constrained. This was decided in the Obama Medicaid expansion case, that there must be a nexus between the funding and the policy. For example, he could withhold funding for immigration enforcement, but not, say, funding to fix the Oroville dam.

Congress is free to enact policy that would require states to be an arm of ICE/CBP, but they haven't done that because no one actually likes that policy; some legislators have tried to do just this, and failed repeatedly. So all we're left with is people like you and Trump posturing to show how tough you are, but that's pretty cheap anyway.

4 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2017 at 5:59 pm

@ Zero,

Really? What stops him from withholding funds for CalTrain electrification? There are many other opportunities for Trump out there. Watch and learn.

Like this comment
Posted by Zero
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 16, 2017 at 6:43 pm

[Post removed.]

16 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 16, 2017 at 7:05 pm

I also believe that allocation of taxpayer money should be voted on by the citizens. We need an explanation as to what other item was reduced in value.
The Board of Supervisors meet in San Jose which is now awash with overruns due to the flooding. We are not is a good place here with the type of decisions being made. We have huge expenditures going on now for roads falling apart, bridges falling down, and other poor decision making. We have a host of displaced people now that need to have some care.

16 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2017 at 7:40 pm

Utterly unacceptable and disgraceful. Goes to show ya the delusional people we elect as politicians. Trump should commit funds to cracking down on these reckless politicians stealing from us.


17 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2017 at 8:04 pm

So much for the rule of law. Incredible that these politicians are violating our national borders and rule of law.
We have a national system for legal immigration and visitation. Try following that.
The illegal alien is now higher status in the eyes of the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors than U.S. citizens, legal residents, those holding legal visas.
What's more...
It is not OK that our taxpayer money is being spent on illegal aliens.
I guess anything to buy future votes.
A fully dependent, one (low) class society is their desire - THEY will "lead" and hold the higher status of course - the politicians.

11 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2017 at 8:14 pm

Be careful what you wish for.

Foreigners who are allowed to enter the US as a refugee are automatically entitled to full benefits for EVERYTHING.

I worked overseas in refugee camps during the late 80's-early 90's, and saw thousands of Vietnamese (over 5,000) and Cambodians gain entry into the US with full refugee status. Most of these people were born long after the war, yet managed to get full refugee status and welfare benefits.

They know exactly what to say to our government officials to gain entry.
They know how to pull at Westerner's "heartstrings" too.

It is rehearsed over and over.

Decades later when I decided to meet up with several dozen of them in various states, I was disappointed to learn that many spoke little to no English, and have not assimilated into our culture.

Here is the link to our official government site.

Web Link

3 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2017 at 8:27 pm

The above link was asylum seekers.
Below is the link on The Homeland Security Site for Refugees.

Web Link

You are paying for it

17 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2017 at 10:39 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

Do these guys think money grows on trees? I guess when you are spending other people's money, you don't have to pay attention to value. Sorry to the citizens of Santa Clara county who are sick and could have used medical support, homeless and could have used the money for housing, unemployed, and could have used the money for job training. Instead the money goes to illegal aliens, a small subset of which are criminals (besides the illegal immigration part), and are being targeted for deportation. SAD!

12 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 17, 2017 at 1:41 am

Regardless of the fact that the term immigrant is conflated with illegals everyone knows which ethnic group the CA politicians are trying to suck up to. Consider that AB 60 was implemented on Jan 1, 2015 which gave over 800K illegals a driver's license. In 2017 AB 1461 automatically registers anyone with a driver's license to vote. The game is simple. Add more voters to a specific ethnic group, one that is approximately the majority in CA. Then you use tax payer dollars to buy their votes. Politicians everywhere, not just Palo Alto, will do anything for votes and campaign contributions.

12 people like this
Posted by AB
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2017 at 5:54 am

Really shameful to see our tax dollars used to pander votes. There are so many causes for citizens that causes have used these funds. We really need to be able to vote on such issues.

It would be great if the names of those that proposed and supported this are published. Then I will at least make sure to vote against them I the next election.

12 people like this
Posted by BigPicture
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2017 at 6:20 am

...politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and donations from the rich....CA elected officials have this down to a science.

3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 17, 2017 at 10:44 am

If you all are not aware, Mexico City is the biggest city in North America. If you check it out on Google it has beautiful streets, big buildings, museums, big tourist trade, and resorts on the coastal areas that are well advertised. It has manufacturing and agriculture, and archeological locations with deep history. It has school systems and colleges, It has health care. So all of these people are coming for "a better life" of working in hotels, etc? The problem with Mexico is that it has institutionalized crime at the top level with governors absconding with money - current this week. And Mr. Brown, Becerra, and Deleon are well aware of this since the Los Angeles PD has a very large gang unit. So the question on the table is why the church and other organizations put up with this and do not demand that their country take charge of the situation. They also have one of the five richest men in the world who owns most of the companies - Carlos Slim. So if you put all of this together why aren't the people - La Raza - demanding that Mexico deliver the goods to them. Every journalist always does a bottom up - single person story of pathos. We need a top down story of the interwoven dependencies of how our taxpayer dollars are used to subsidize Mexico and it's citizens. Reality is they can do very well for their citizens and coming to the US is not really a step up but a step down.

10 people like this
Posted by lk
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2017 at 3:44 pm

If California had a huge surplus of tax dollars I can understand liberals throwing away money on moral causes. However, CA is looking at a $1.6B deficit this year. School teachers pushed to pass prop 55, jacking up income tax to 13.3%, in order to bail out their pension funds. We have a severely underfunded educational system and no money to fix broken spillways in the second largest reservoir. Caltrain electrification project is out of money and many under funded public pensions, if properly accounted for, makes California officially bankrupt. Now the CA politicians want to raise north of $100M to pay for the legal fees for illegals who shouldn't be here in the first place. Even the most hardcore liberal should see that this is nothing more than using precious public funds to buy votes.

8 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2017 at 11:09 pm


I think you are underestimating the severity of the problems in Mexico and the connection to the global elite system.

In certain areas, Mexico suffers from Narco Violence approaching the level of brutality and inhumanity of ISIS. Mass shootings, beheadings, burnings, and disolving in buckets of acid are not uncommon. Victims are often killed and left in the streets or hung from overpasses to send a message.

Corruption is rampant and rises to the highest levels. People are often given the powerful and effective proposition Plumo o Plata (Lead or silver). As with many countries, once a drug industry takes hold it also effects the youth in the big cities and the whole economy.

Teenagers become consumers and are drawn to the allure of easy sex and money. Fewer aspire to become doctors or engineers when they can live fast and die young. The professional class caters to the drug industry as their biggest and most lucrative clientele.

Then there is the racism and oppression. The ruling class are mainly of European Spanish descent. They have more in common with other elites in London or Paris or New York than their own people and they heavily discriminate against the groups with more native american ethnicity. The poor and lower classes feel like the social hierarchy is calcified and there is little opportunity for upward mobility from the station of one's birth.

In my experience, the ruling class is not interested in reforms. For some reason they lack empathy and have little reservation feeling superior over other human beings like we do here. Maybe it is an act, maybe the money is too good or maybe they believe that equality would lead to their slaughter and destruction.

As a result, they are a perfect fit for the global elite system and wish to perpetuate it. Globalism seeks access and control of markets (including drugs and human trafficking) to exploit the masses and open borders to insure freedom of movement for their money, products and families.

In the case of Mexico, it also provides a relief valve for its social injustices and a way to export a safety net away from the homeland. Thus, I totally agree with you. It is despicable that the liberal progressives in the US tolerate and empower such a system instead of putting pressure on Mexico to change it.

3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 18, 2017 at 6:35 am

I am not underestimating anything here. My mother worked at Los Angeles Police Department - Parker Center and at one point was keeping catalogs of the gangs, their pictures, and signage throughout the city. Any time we would be in the downtown she could tell you who was located where and what the signage was saying. And this was a long time ago. As I look at the situation now I have to wonder why everyone knew what was going on and accepted it. A friend on the Texas border is located in one of the main thoroughfares for drugs and there are warehouses filled with confiscated drugs that the US is busy destroying. He is military police and knows what is going on. Bring this back to CA and the governor knows, the mayors of the cities, the police forces. There has to be some push back on letting this situation escalate. And the people who are fighting for rights should be pushing back on the Mexican government to clean up their country. What is worse we have been providing them money to reduce crime. That has to stop - crime is escalating. Carlos Slim is in Town and Country magazine article about being rich - he has the where with all to make this a better picture if he is going to be touted in magazines. Put it all on the table and push back. At least the Wall Street Journal calls it out and tells it like it is. Side note is that Carlos Slim is not Mexican - he is Lebanese. His family escaped to Mexico during the Ottoman Empire collapse. He is also the biggest shareholder of the New York Times Corporation so has some sway of the editorial policies of that paper. The Ottoman Empire keeps creeping into everything that goes on.

6 people like this
Posted by Mods
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 18, 2017 at 8:25 am


What the heck is going on in this comments section? You have people ranting about Mexican government conspiracies, Carlos Slim, and the Ottoman Empire. This makes Palo Alto look awful.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

A new home in Redwood City for Mademoiselle Colette's croissants
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 8,335 views

Electric vs Gas Heat: Which wins?
By Sherry Listgarten | 18 comments | 3,899 views

Lights Out! Foods to Snuggle With in the Dark
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 1,715 views

What to do with all those cardboard boxes
By Cheryl Bac | 3 comments | 1,542 views

Some answers, please, PG&E
By Diana Diamond | 6 comments | 892 views


Race Results Are In

Thank you for joining us at the 35th annual Moonlight Run & Walk! All proceeds benefit the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday fund, supporting local nonprofits serving children and families.

Click for Race Results