In a settlement of a decadelong lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for unlawfully detaining tens of thousands of immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a fund will expand legal defense services for noncitizens, it was announced Friday.

The settlement agreement in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles stipulates that the fund be used by L.A. County public defense attorneys to provide representation in deportation, immigration bond, post-conviction and other legal proceedings, according to the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.

The funds will go to the county offices of the Public Defender and the Alternate Public Defender for the hiring of immigration attorneys, paralegals and other specialists to carry out the representation. This will be especially vital for persons facing immigration consequences because of an arrest or conviction, the ACLU said.

“The best possible way to protect county residents from unjust deportations and keep families together is to ensure that everyone has a lawyer to defend them,” said Jennie Pasquarella, immigrant rights’ director for the ACLU Foundation of SoCal. “For indigent noncitizens facing criminal charges, it is just as important that they have a public defender in their criminal proceedings, as in their immigration proceedings. This agreement will now make that possible in Los Angeles County.”

The settlement is for the class action lawsuit Roy v County of Los Angeles filed in 2012 on behalf of immigrants unlawfully detained by the sheriff’s department because of “ICE hold” requests. The holds, also called “immigration detainers,” forced individuals to be held in county jails after they were legally entitled to be released.

Co-counsels on the lawsuit include the ACLU SoCal; the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the National Immigrant Justice Center.

“Unfortunately for the citizens and taxpayers of Los Angeles County, the county jail has a long and consistent history of violating prisoners’ rights, which has resulted in several multimillion dollar class action settlements,” said civil rights attorney Barry Litt. “This latest settlement not only compensates those whose rights were violated, but provides critical legal support to future immigrants caught in the ICE-County Jail legal web.”

The original settlement of the lawsuit was $14 million approved in 2020 by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors as compensation to class members who were detained from October 2010 to June 2014. After those payments — ranging from $250 up to $25,000 per person — are completed, the remaining funds, an estimated $5.3 million will go to the public defender agencies’ legal representation of immigrants, the ACLU noted.

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