Grant Stringer, Colorado Sentinel, January 5, 2021
A majority of local lawmakers shot down a proposal to create a legal defense fund for immigrants in part with city dollars, but proponents said they’ll still bring the plan to the Aurora City Council floor for a formal vote.
Five council members and Mayor Mike Coffman objected to the plan after a heated debate in a Monday study session.
Traditionally, the outcome would mean that sponsors drop the proposal. But it’s becoming increasingly common for council members to carry bills to the council floor even if they didn’t receive broad support in study sessions.
If approved in a formal meeting, the proposal would create a legal fund for immigration lawyers and non-profit organizations to tap into when defending immigrants from proceedings in courts, including removal orders for deportation. Denver has a similar fund.
Councilmembers in favor of the plan were sponsors Crystal Murillo and Alison Coombs along with Nicole Johnston, Juan Marcano and Allison Hiltz.
Immigrants aren’t legally required to face hearings with a lawyer. But those with an attorney are more than 10 times more likely to achieve a favorable outcome in their case, according to data from the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.
The plan hadn’t allocated any money for the fund yet. Murillo aimed to put $50,000 into the fund.
Councilmember Dave Gruber led the charge against the proposal. He was concerned with using taxpayer dollars to represent immigrants convicted of crimes as they navigate immigration courts.
Gruber also said the fund would assist immigrants transferred into Aurora who weren’t originally living here.
The debate spiraled out of control at many points during the Monday study session. Before a majority of lawmakers rejected the proposal, council members traded barbs about the use of the term “alien.”
The study session came after a majority of lawmakers also rejected a proposal to limit city employees, including police, from assisting ICE.