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City of Baltimore to spend taxpayer money on lawyers for illegal immigrants

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has been supportive of the plan to use $200,000 to pay for the legal expenses of 40 illegal immigrants. “We’re making the decision to be supportive of individuals who live in our city,” Pugh said. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The city of Baltimore has approved a plan to dedicate $200,000 to pay for the legal expenses of illegal immigrants facing deportation.

Mayor Catherine Pugh announced the plan on March 7.

“We’re not making a decision as to their status,” Pugh said. “We’re making the decision to be supportive of individuals who live in our city.”

The plan calls for the city government to supply $100,000 in taxpayer money, which will be matched by a $100,000 grant from the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice. The Vera Institute will also advise on which lawyers the city should hire, and supply research and technical assistance.

City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young argued that the plan would actually save the city money over time, by preventing it from having to care for children whose parents have been deported.

Maryland’s GOP chairman Dirk Haire disagreed.

“My hunch is that the vast majority of Baltimore residents would prefer to have that money spent on heat and air conditioning in Baltimore public schools instead of legal fees,” Haire said.

In January, up to 85 public schools experienced difficulty with their heating systems, forcing at least four of them to close. The local teachers union called the situation “inhumane.”

Baltimore will join cities and counties in seven other states who have already partnered with the Vera Institute, including Sacramento, Oakland and Santa Ana in California; Chicago, Illinois; Austin and San Antonio in Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Columbus, Ohio; Dane County in Wisconsin and Prince George’s County in Maryland. The Vera Institute’s SAFE Cities Network promises to provide a publicly funded lawyer for every illegal immigrant who faces deportation.

While Baltimore’s current mayor objects to the term “sanctuary city,” the city has a history of being lenient toward illegal immigrants. In 2012, then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instructed police officers to refrain from asking about the immigration status of suspects. In 2014 then-Gov. Martin O’Malley ordered the state-run jail in the city to refuse to hold illegal immigrants beyond the amount of time that a citizen guilty of the same crime would be held, defying requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, the city will still alert ICE before it releases a suspected illegal immigrant.

That $200,000 is expected to cover the legal expenses for 40 illegal immigrants.

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