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They'd get free help under Senate immigration bill

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Will Taxpayers Now Pay Legal Bills for Illegal Aliens?

They’d get free help under Senate immigration bill

The immigration bill passed by the U.S. Senate in May 2006 not only would have granted amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, but it would also have required an amnesty-seeker to have a lawyer and forced taxpayers to provide one.

Although the bill did not become law, the election of Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress ensures that it will be revived in 2007, very possibly with the support of President Bush.

Tax-Funded Bonanza for LSC

Giving free legal help to illegal aliens would mean a bonanza for the taxpayer-funded Legal Services Corporation (LSC). LSC leaders in recent years have been searching desperately for a rationale for budget increases.

LSC funds a network of lawyers in hundreds of communities in the country to provide civil (not criminal) day-to-day legal help to poor people. Unfortunately, many LSC-funded lawyers spend their time on political and social causes, instead of helping the poor. This year, LSC will receive $330 million. Since it was founded in 1974, LSC has received more than $6 billion.

LSC’s one-year budget peaked in the mid-1990s at $415 million. Its supporters have been unable to restore LSC’s budget to that level because it has been constantly mired in controversy.

Last year’s immigration bill stated that recipients of “funds under the Legal Services Corporation Act” shall not be prevented “from providing legal assistance directly related to an application for adjustment of status under this section.”

Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions pointed out that the bill would have required the alien to have an attorney file the application for him. “Not only will it give amnesty to 1.5 million illegal aliens,” said Sessions, “it would have the American taxpayer pay the legal bills of those illegal aliens.”

Unlike other liberal sacred cows such as the Public Broadcasting System, the LSC budget was actually cut by the Republican Congress. In addition, several important restrictions on the money were passed in 1996. They include a ban on representing illegal aliens. That progress now threatens to be swept aside by the election results.

If Congress were to lift the ban on representing illegal aliens, government-funded lawyers could not only represent such clients in amnesty cases but could do so in any other matter, opening the floodgates for pro-immigration “impact” litigation.

Legal services lawyers have a long history of promoting illegal immigration and thwarting the enforcement of our laws in ways large and small.

In September, LSC Inspector General Kirt West issued a report detailing how California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) regularly assists illegal aliens and how its record-keeping system is designed to conceal this fact. According to one CRLA employee, “There was a clear feeling among certain CRLA staff that anyone unwilling to serve undocumented persons is a bad person.”

Last year, Florida Rural Legal Services (FRLS) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) successfully stopped plans by the Lake Worth, Fla., police department to warn contractors of possible civil and criminal penalties if they hired illegals at a day-labor site.

Several years ago, a North Carolina legal services group sent lawyers to Mexico to drum up lawsuits against American citizens. Through radio ads and public meetings, they recruited migrants who had worked in North Carolina to serve as plaintiffs in lawsuits against North Carolina farmers.

In other words, American citizens were sued by Mexicans with their own tax money. Eventually, the legal services group was cut off from further LSC funding and had to pay back the cost of the trip, but the episode amply demonstrates the mindset of many legal services activists.

Written By

Mr. Boehm is chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a nonpartisan foundation promoting ethics in public life. He is also former counsel to the Legal Services Corporation Board of Directors.

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