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2 City-County Council members propose $200,000 legal fund for immigrants

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Two Indianapolis City-County councilors are proposing a plan to create a legal fund for immigrants living in Marion County.

If the full council approves $100,000 for the effort, the Central Indiana Community Foundation will match that amount.

The proposed legal fund would help immigrants pay for attorney fees, citizenship, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications and more.

Supporters said approval of the effort would show that government leaders care about community members no matter of their race or immigration status.

Becoming an American citizens takes work and money. The citizen application fee is $725. The total cost to become a citizen can go higher with legal fees and the costs for DACA applications.

“Sometimes communities or constituents aren’t aware of how expensive the process is. So, for me, every two years I have to pay $495 to be able to renew,” said Guadalupe Pimentel-Solano.

She’s a DACA recipient who is the Central Indiana Community Foundation’s senior opportunity, equity and inclusion officer.

“There is gratitude because I know there’s been a lot of sacrifices and advocacy to be able to have these conversations, and so it’s definitely exciting to see Proposal 134,” said Pimentel-Solano.

The foundation’s mission is to provide equitable opportunities for all. So, the foundation has put support behind Proposal 134 from City-County councilors Crista Carlino and Jessica McCormick.

“This is to provide immediate legal information for people, even if they just have questions about ‘How do I go about the citizenship and the test taking that I need to do?’; screenings they have to do; and consultations,” McCormick said. “And then, representation to residents seeking asylum or pursuing their citizenship, and those who would be at risk of deportation.”

The proposal calls for the use of $100,000 from the 2021 Office of Public Health and Safety Budget.

Carlino said about 17% of Marion County’s immigrant population live in her and McCormick’s City-County Council districts.

“This is considered a matter of public health and safety. We have citizens in our community whose public safety and their health is at risk due to their immigration status and lack of support,” Carlino said.

The proposal was heard in a Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee meeting last week. If City-County councilors approve the $100,000 proposal, the foundation will match the amount and bring the fund total to $200,000.

The council could vote on the measure May 10.