Mayor Bowser Funds $2.5 Million for Immigration Legal Services in Proposed Budget

Live TV footage of a room full of people clapping.

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Last night Mayor Bowser announced (new window) that she will allocate $2.5 million for immigration legal services in her proposed budget for this year!

“At the budget engagement forums last month, I was moved by the residents who came out consistently and asked us to do more for our neighbors. So in this budget, together we will increase funding for the IJLS grant program from $900,000 to $2.5 million.” – Mayor Bowser, State of the District Address 2019
The Kalmanovitz Initiative, through it’s Immigration and Labor Project (ILP), has been working in coalition with legal providers, faith congregations, and community groups to secure this $2.5 million in DC funding for immigrant legal services, and to make these services available to DC residents who have been detained by ICE.
The coalition, including KI students and staff, packed the Mayoral Budget Engagement Forums to speak to the necessity of of defending our immigrant neighbors from this President’s policies of cruelty and fear. Last year, KI’s ILP student coordinators testified at the DC Council about the importance of robust legal services in protecting the rights of immigrants.
The Mayor’s decision to match our budget request and nearly triple the funding DC provides for immigration legal services was featured in The Washington Post (new window) and WAMU (new window). You can watch the announcement (new window) at the 58:18 mark of the speech.
Yet the fight is not over. We still need to ensure that the IJLS funding is made available for detained immigrant representation. 

“Over the past year we have seen the number of DC residents detained by ICE double, and in less than 10 months over 3,400 Washingtonians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) could be at risk of deportation too. Our strong support for immigrants cannot exclude those who need it most. It is time for DC to join municipalities like Baltimore City and PG County in providing public funding for detained immigrant defense.”

Based on conversations with the Mayor’s staff and the DC Council, the coalition is hopeful that by making a strong push in the coming weeks we can achieve both the $2.5 million in funding and the ability to use that funding to defend all immigrants in DC – both those currently detained and those under threat of detention and deportation.

Although there is more work to be done, this is a big victory for immigrant rights in the District.