Philly joins network seeking universal legal representation for people facing deportation

Pat Loeb
July 16, 2019 - 6:37 pm
Philadelphia is joining an effort to provide lawyers for immigrants facing deportation. Mayor Jim Kenney Tuesday announced the city will give $100,000 to the Vera Institute to defend detainees in York, Pennsylvania.

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio

Categories: 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia is joining an effort to provide lawyers for immigrants facing deportation. Mayor Jim Kenney Tuesday announced the city will give $100,000 to the Vera Institute to defend detainees in York, Pennsylvania.

The Vera Institute has formed what it calls a SAFE (Safety and Fairness for Everyone) network in 18 cities, which now includes Philadelphia, with a goal of universal representation for defendants in deportation cases. 

Director Kica Matos said defendants with Vera's lawyers were 12 times more likely to be allowed to remain in the United States than those with no lawyers.

"Having a lawyer who is willing and able to fight on your behalf with a lot of ferocity makes a huge difference in the lives of immigrant families," Matos said.

Case in point: Lea Wanhi, who fled here from the Ivory Coast, was slated for deportation and instead won asylum when attorney Rebecca Hufstader took her case.

"My lawyer Rebecca took of us like it was her own life," Wanhi said. 
 
The city's contribution will provide lawyers for about 30 immigrants. It's considered a pilot, and Kenney said he's proud to participate.

"We have a vision for Philadelphia and the nation, where the contributions of our immigrant neighbors are valued and where fairness and due process for all is pursued rather than fear and division," the mayor said. 

Kenney could not resist using the occasion to lambaste President Trump's tweet telling four congresswomen of color to go back where they came from.

"If Donald Trump ever has to go back where he came from, he's going to have to go to hell," he said.