MoCo Deportation Defense Proposal in Danger of Falling Through

By Adam Pagnucco.

Montgomery County’s proposal for funding legal defense of people threatened by deportation appears to be in danger of falling through.  Below is a letter from the MoCo Deportation Defense Coalition outlining what has happened.


Dear Supporters of Deportation Defense Funding,

We are sorry to tell you that the County Council has acquiesced to the demands of the State’s Attorney, John McCarthy. The Council amended its special appropriation and added an extensive list of criminal convictions that would render a person ineligible for representation by the CAIR Coalition. This list, based on past convictions for which a person has already completed his/her sentence, includes misdemeanors and nonviolent offenses, not just serious felonies. In addition, the Council has acceded to McCarthy’s demands that there be almost no exceptions made to these criminal exclusions. This means that the CAIR Coalition cannot use County funds to challenge the deportation of a refugee or of someone who may be tortured upon return to their country. The resulting program would be far more restrictive than others around the country.

As a result, the CAIR Coalition is withdrawing its request for the money. The MoCo Deportation Defense Coalition supports CAIR’s decision and opposes the resolution in its current state. Join us at a press conference hosted by CASA and supporters on Monday at 1:30 pm in front of the State’s Attorney’s Office and come to the formal vote on the functionally-defunct resolution on Tuesday at 1:30 pm. Please read on for more information about why we support CAIR’s withdrawal and what you can do to show your opposition to the Council’s decision.

Why the MoCo Deportation Defense Coalition supports the CAIR Coalition’s refusal to participate in the County’s hobbled deportation defense special appropriation:

CAIR estimates that the restrictions would reduce the number of people who could be represented by approximately 70 percent. The remaining 30 percent would not necessarily be the County residents most likely to receive relief under immigration law. The restrictions would leave many County residents who could obtain relief from deportation if they had a lawyer, without one;

The Council’s program reflects an ill-informed and unjust approach to deportation defense funding that we should not support. Our criminal justice system has been shown to treat people of color and immigrants unfairly. An extensive exclusions list furthers the toxic narrative perpetuated by our President of immigrants as bad, undesirable, and irredeemable people. Deportation defense funding is about due process for all, so all people who qualify for relief under our harsh immigration laws can have a fair shot at getting it, regardless of their ability to pay for a lawyer;

The process through which the resolution was amended reflects a dangerous and undemocratic approach to policy-making. The County’s lead prosecutor, an elected official who is not a member of the County Council and has no expertise in immigration law, declared by fiat his requirements. McCarthy accepted almost none of the CAIR Coalition’s multiple attempts to compromise. Our Council members deferred to McCarthy despite letters and testimony by immigration experts, including former immigration judges and attorneys, arguing against criminal exclusions;

The Council’s proposed program is far more restrictive than others around the country; Baltimore’s publicly funded program has no criminal restrictions at all and Prince George’s County’s exclusions list is smaller than the list that the CAIR Coalition originally agreed to.

What Can You Do? Join Us:

Monday, May 21, 1:30 pm Press Conference @ 50 Maryland Avenue, Rockville (the Office of the State’s Attorney). Speakers will explain what happened and why John McCarthy’s involvement was inappropriate and unjust.

Tuesday, May 22, 1:30 pm Council Session to vote on the special appropriation @ 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville (3rd Floor). We will stand silently and hold up our signs during the vote.

Bring signs to both, suggestions include: Deportation Defense: Due Process For All; No MoCo McCarthyism; Immigrants are not political pawns; No sham votes; John McCarthy Is Not A Councilmember; Due Process For All, Not For Some

Share this email with other deportation defense supporters!

We promise to keep fighting for deportation defense funding in Montgomery County with the new County Council and with private funders. We hope you will continue to join us in this fight!

In Solidarity,

The MoCo Deportation Defense Coalition