Mayors of Cambridge and Somerville Partner to Establish United Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants

Mayor Marc C. McGovern and Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced this morning the establishment of the United Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants, a partnership between the Mayors’ Offices and the Cambridge Community Foundation.

“By unifying efforts to raise funds for the most vulnerable families in our community, we can help valued neighbors and stabilize families impacted by the stress and uncertainty of ongoing shifts in TPS and DACA
status, and those seeking asylum.”

The creation of the United Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants marks a critical expansion and evolution of the McGovern-initiated Cambridge Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants, which launched in March 2018 with an ambitious goal of raising $500,000 to help immigrants get the legal services they need to stay, legally, in their community. Last year, the Cambridge Community Foundation distributed $255,000 in grants to four local non-profit legal assistance organizations—De Novo (formerly Community Legal Services and Counseling Center), Greater Boston Legal Services, Irish Immigrant Center (IIC), and Political Asylum Immigration Representation Project, Inc. (PAIR).

The United Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants will work towards that original goal and distribute grants to help support immigrant community members who live and work in the Cambridge and Somerville area, among them young Dreamers, TPS holders, unaccompanied minors, victims of trafficking and/or domestic violence, and those seeking asylum from violence and persecution.

“We established the legal defense fund a year ago because we saw the injustice our residents faced when going against the full weight of federal immigration policies, often without the financial means or right to legal representation, in a language not their own, and through a system hardened to their desire for refuge and opportunity,” said Mayor Marc McGovern.

“That imbalance has only grown and so, too, must our efforts to keep our communities together. By partnering with Mayor Curtatone and Somerville, we hope to send a united message to our immigrant residents that you are welcome, that your contributions to our community are valued, and that your hope for belonging is reciprocated.”

“The data is clear. Access to legal counsel vastly improves the likelihood of success within the immigration system and courts, and more of our residents will find pathways to a more secure legal status or citizenship with the help of pro bono attorneys," said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “Our cities may not be able to changethe immigration landscape nationally just yet, but the generosity of our residents and businesses can change immigration case outcomes locally. Our hope is that the United Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants will provide our immigrant residents a much better chance at the normalcy, dignity, and security they deserve.”

While there is no city-specific data on the numbers of unauthorized immigrants in the combined Cambridge and Somerville communities, proxy data shows that 27 percent of the population in Cambridge is foreignborn, and 25 percent of Somerville’s residents are immigrant residents. In Cambridge, approximately 40 percent of children have at least on foreign-born parent. In Somerville, 49 percent of students in the local school district have a first language other than English.

“The expanded United Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants reflects the growing need for legal support for immigrants across city borders and is the next step in an incredible grassroots effort that has engaged more than 300 local residents so far,” said Geeta Pradhan, President of the Cambridge Community Foundation.

“By unifying efforts to raise funds for the most vulnerable families in our community, we can help valued neighbors and stabilize families impacted by the stress and uncertainty of ongoing shifts in TPS and DACA
status, and those seeking asylum.”

The United Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants will be administered by the Cambridge Community Foundation, which will distribute funds to eligible legal defense provides through a grant approval process in the fall of 2019.

Information on the initiative can be found on the Cambridge Community Foundation website at cambridgecf.org. A GoFundMe page has been set up at https://www.gofundme.com/united-legal-defense-fund