INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Immigrant Welcome Center is putting its support behind a proposal that would create an immigrant legal fund in Marion County.
The City-County Council at its Monday night meeting will vote on the measure, so the organization is hoping to gather more support.
City-County councilors Crista Carlino and Jessica McCormick drew up Proposal 134. Supporters said the fund would not just supply money for legal aid, but also provide support to the immigrant community, one that pays billions of dollars in local and state taxes across the nation each year. The proposal was designed as a pilot, legal protection fund that’ll help immigrants at risk of deportation, and people seeking asylum in the United States and other legal help.
The City-County Council’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee has recommended councilors adopt the proposal to set aside $100,000 from the County General Fund for the immigrant legal fund. If the council approves Proposal 134, the Central Indiana Community Foundation will also provide $100,000 for the immigrant legal fund.
The immigrant community is part of what makes Indiana what it is. Along with the culture they provide, they also help boost the economy.
“They contribute to our local and state tax bases, so they are really critical assets to our community,” said Jackie Rodrigez, marketing and communications manager with the Immigrant Welcome Center.
When “we think about Indianapolis, immigrants here make up about 9.2% of our population share,” Rodriguez said, “and not only are they diversifying our communities, but they are improving our economies and keeping us afloat during COVID-19.”
“Population is changing, and these are people that really need assistance and access to these kinds of services,” Rodriguez said.
Data from the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., shows that immigrants in 2017 paid $2.6 billion in state and local taxes. Despite that, the Immigrant Welcome Center said, immigrants often are not eligible for government programs such as the federal-state health Medicaid health insurance program that helps low-income people, Indiana’s Hardest Hit Fund that helped homeowners during the coronavirus pandemic, and township trustees’ financial assistance for the poor.
Also, cultural and language barriers can make legal support more expensive. “Something that we’ve seen with our clients is that continues to be a unmet need,” Rodriguez said.