Public defender announces fund to help immigrants fight deportation

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced Sept. 14 a new fund that will help immigration defense attorneys pay for expert witnesses testifying on behalf of detained immigrants. The Immigration Defense Fund, a joint effort by the public defender’s office and the nonprofit International Institute of the Bay Area, will provide grants to attorneys beginning at the start of 2018.

In May, Adachi announced a new unit in his office dedicated to representing immigrants faced with deportation and said it is one of only three such programs in the country. Unlike in criminal court, immigrants are not entitled to legal representation in deportation proceedings, although studies have shown that detained immigrants with attorneys are six times more likely to win their cases, according to the public defender’s office.

The fund announced Sept. 14, which is accepting donations at http://bit.ly/defendimmigrants, is meant to help address the cost of expert witnesses, which can cost up to $1,000 per case to present evidence in court.

“Expert witnesses can make or break a case,” Adachi said in a statement. “Experts can testify to the risks of persecution and torture in an immigrant’s home country, verify past physical and sexual abuse, and help immigration judges understand the complex effects of trauma and the circumstances which led an immigrant to flee.” San Francisco has an estimated 44,000 undocumented immigrants, according to city figures.

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