Your Tax Dollars at Work

I was interested to read the other day of a new fund the city and county of Los Angeles created a fund to provide legal representation to people facing deportation.  A $10 million dollar fund, of which $3 million will be provided by the county, $ 2million by the city, with the remaining $5 million to come from private philanthropies.

It’s interesting that the Tribune News Service article I read initially stated that the fund was for “people in the country illegally facing deportation”, while the National Public Radio (NPR) version of the story simply says “immigrants”.  Every article I can find online only says “immigrants” or “residents”.  Of course, this begs the question.  My understanding is that legal immigrants/residents would not face deportation because, by definition, they are here legally.  Only those who are not here legally would be at risk of deportation.

All of the articles highlight this move as a response to statements by President-Elect Trump that he might actually enforce immigration laws, something President Obama has made clear he isn’t interested in pursuing.  All of which glosses over the major points – there are laws which govern immigration to our country.  Those who do not follow these laws are subject to deportation.

I understand that the process for obtaining legal citizenship can be a very time consuming and costly one.  I wonder why a $10 million dollar fund isn’t being created to help streamline or update immigration laws to make it less time and money intensive?  Instead, taxpayer money is being used to defend people who are breaking the law.  I understand and am sympathetic to the plight of those who are actively seeking legal residence in our country and are forced to wait for years because of costs and scheduling.  I would hope that if immigration laws are enforced, these people will be the last to be affected.  I imagine a lot of other people would be similarly sympathetic, including lawmakers and perhaps even President-Elect Trump.

But I find it dishonest to fudge the reality.  If the city and county decided to set up a fund using your tax money to defend murderers so that they might avoid prison time, how would I feel?  Or if the city and county simply decided that vandalism or theft were no longer crimes to be prosecuted but rather defended using tax payer money, how would I feel?  I understand not agreeing with a law and wanting it changed.  I have difficulty with the idea of commandeering taxpayer money.  Particularly if there aren’t a lot of details about who is going to be defended and on what basis.  And particularly when, as some articles point out, the nature of deportation litigation is under a broad umbrella of civil actions wherein nobody – legal or illegal – is entitled to taxpayer funded defense.

We’re all free to disagree with the law, but we are all required to abide by it.  If millions of dollars can be allocated for this sort of effort, why can’t that money be allocated to working towards better laws?  Towards an immigration system that works, rather than simply thumbing noses at a President who recognizes that part of his job is to enforce laws that are on the books?

The approach that Los Angeles and other cities are taking with these defense funds is flawed.  It doesn’t change the existing laws, doesn’t even attempt to.  It simply seems intended to discourage enforcement of the laws by making it cost prohibitive to enforce them.  This is a bad solution to a large, complicated problem.

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