Montgomery County Considers Funding Legal Aid for Aliens
By Shari Rendall | May 17, 2018
On May 1, dozens testified for over two hours at a Montgomery County, Maryland, hearing where the County Council considered whether to use taxpayer money to provide legal representation to legal and illegal aliens facing deportation. Under the proposal, the Montgomery County budget would allocate $373,957 to the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (CAIR) to provide legal representation.
According to County Council President Hans Riemer (D-At Large), this proposed legal defense fund is Montgomery County’s “attempt to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to protect their rights and ensure they are aware and able to assert any options that they have under the law.” However, providing taxpayer-funded representation to illegal aliens undermines federal law. Federal law expressly prohibits governments from funding the legal representation of aliens in removal proceedings. Aliens who wish to be represented by legal counsel are free to do so, but federal law specifies that it must be at no cost to the taxpayers. (8 U.S.C. 1229a(b)(4)); 8 U.S.C. 1362).
Besides running counter to the intent of federal law, a legal defense fund also encourages more illegal immigration. It should come as no surprise, however, that Montgomery County is seeking to enact a policy that encourages illegal immigration. Montgomery County has been a sanctuary jurisdiction since 2014, and since then has seen widespread crime by MS-13 and other criminal illegal alien gangs.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said of the proposal that he doesn’t know “that we’ve given full consideration to all the implications of what we’re doing.” The county’s top prosecutor is particularly concerned that the list of criminal convictions that would make an alien ineligible for assistance from the legal defense fund doesn’t include enough. Under the current proposal, those convicted of “[t]hird- and fourth-degree sex offense, stalking, extortion, all forms of domestic violence,” would still be eligible. He also worries that providing immigration counsel at taxpayer expense would require his office to re-litigate significant numbers of its closed criminal cases and potentially traumatize crime victims by forcing them to return to court.
Montgomery County also projected receiving more than $840 million in “intergovernmental” revenue from the State of Maryland and the federal government in its Fiscal Year 2018 budget: this means it wouldn’t just be the county’s local taxpayers footing the bill for the legal defense fund with local money, but taxpayers statewide and nationwide indirectly subsidizing it. According to FAIR’s 2017 cost study, “The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers,” Maryland taxpayers alone already spend over $1.78 billion a year on services for illegal aliens.
Opponents of the legal defense fund were present in force at the hearing, many holding up signs saying “Be responsible with taxpayer $$$” and “When will citizens matter?” Amy Waychoff decried it as “morally wrong to take money out of the hands of U.S. citizen taxpayers and give it to illegal immigrants who should not be in the county in the first place,” while county resident Pam Smith asked “[d]o you know that 746 teachers could get $500 each for classroom supplies with this money?” Legal immigrant Wei Wang condemned it as “against American values of fairness … for legal immigrants who respect U.S. immigration laws,” such as herself.
The County Council took no action at the hearing, and has not yet scheduled a vote on the proposal, hopefully giving opponents more time to impress on Council members just what a bad idea it is.