Cambridge Comm. Foundation Launches Legal Defense Fund

March 24, 2018 — The Cambridge Community Foundation, based in Cambridge, recently announced the creation of the Cambridge Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants, which will support local nonprofits that provide legal assistance to young adults previously protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, who are now at risk of deportation, and others.

Launched with the City of Cambridge, the fund was seeded with a $50,000 grant from the Cambridge Community Foundation (CFF).

During the past two week, more than 100 individuals have donated $67,575 to the fund, which aims to raise $500,000 by early summer.

Funds raised by the Cambridge Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants will be distributed through legal assistance nonprofits, such as the Community Legal Services and Counseling Center, which have staff attorneys and volunteer lawyers.

CCF Executive Director Geeta Pradhan said, "The need is urgent and our capacity as a community is low. More dollars raised will add to the capacity of legal service organizations to respond more adequately."

She noted that threats to cut federal funding for sanctuary cities means that it "falls to the civic, business, and philanthropic communities to support" immigrants.

Sanctuary cities are municipalities that limit their cooperation with federal authorities to enforce immigration law. Cambridge has been a sanctuary city since 1985 when the city council first took steps to protect and support refugees fleeing from political violence and human rights violations in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Haiti. In 1999, the city council expanded that support to all residents, regardless of immigration status.

Last fall, a consortium of Massachusetts nonprofits and corporate funders created the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund, funding it with $1.1million, to support immigrants and refugees.

Pradhan said the Cambridge fund "is a grassroots effort which seeks to complement the Greater Boston Fund and engage local residents, business, and their employees to send a message that we care deeply about issues of fairness, social justice, and respect for human dignity, that we strongly believe in keeping families together, and it matters to us that all of us as immigrants to this great country made it what it is today and that we believe in the grit and hard work of our new immigrant friends and neighbors.”

In addition to supporting DACA recipients, the new fund will help provide legal services to asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors/juveniles, and other highly vulnerable persons including victims of trafficking, sexual, and/or domestic violence, as well as family legal services to ensure protection for children left behind.

According to CCF, only 37% of all immigrants and 14% of detained immigrants go to court accompanied with a lawyer, with data showing that people with legal representation are five times more likely to get a favorable outcome as compared to those without.

Data from Pew Research indicate that in 2014 there were 210,000 undocumented residents in Massachusetts, of which over 180,000 were in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton area.