New Jersey’s recently enacted state budget includes $2.1 million to pay for legal assistance for immigrants facing deportation.
The State Treasury hasn’t decided yet how the money will be dispersed.
Chia-Chia Wang with the American Friends Service Committee hopes the funds will help immigrants in detention centers who are separated from their families and can’t afford to pay an attorney.
“And a lot of times these individuals don’t understand English and might be signing a voluntary deportation order and will leave the country without seeing their family. So we want them to have a fair day in court,” he said.
Wang says a lot of the immigrants in detention facilities are green card holders who came to the United States to seek a better life and have been in the state for many years.
“We have cases where people are fathers or grandfathers who have lived in New Jersey for 20 or 40 years, and then suddenly they become enforcement priority and immigration enforcement come to their home and pick them up,” said Wang.
Republican Assemblyman Hal Wirths believes it’s financially and morally wrong to use state funds to help immigrants facing deportation.
“And I have introduced a bill that I don’t expect to go anywhere, but I sure hope it does, to not allow the taxpayer money to be used for legal defense of illegal immigration,” Wirths said.
Immigrant advocates are hoping the state provides more money for that legal assistance in future years.