Lawyers For Illegals Getting Taxpayer Dollars?

How the Left is circumventing the law.

Republicans and Democrats introduced clashing bills last week related to the provision of taxpayer-funded legal services for Unaccompanied Alien Minors. Fortunately for Republicans they already have similar laws in place that deny such funding. Fortunately for Democrats, it’s riddled with loopholes. 

Coinciding with last Tuesday’s Senate Homeland Security hearing on the continuing Unaccompanied Minors-surge, Chairman Ron Johnson and committee member Jeff Sessions introduced the Protection of Children Act (S. 2561), a bill that, among other things, promises to “ensure[] that taxpayer dollars do not pay for attorneys for these individuals, consistent with decades of precedent.” Meanwhile, House Democrats, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, introduced a bill on Friday that seeks to “protect children and other vulnerable groups in immigration proceedings by ensuring access to counsel, legal orientation programs, and case management services.” Lofgren’s bill tracks closely with a similar bill introduced by Sen. Harry Reid a fortnight ago. 

Perhaps unknown to either side is that open-borders legal advocates representing Unaccompanied Alien Minors (UAMs) and illegal immigrants in general have been receiving taxpayer dollars for years although the practice is indeed a prohibited one. The Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a government entity created in 1974 that distributes federal grants to non-profit law firms, has been blocked since the eighties from providing funds for the use of representing illegal aliens. Congressional appropriations law as it relates to LSC is clear: “LSC funds cannot be used to engage in litigation and related activities with respect to a variety of matters including… representation of illegal aliens.” Due to gaping loopholes, however, taxpayer dollars continue to flow to these groups.

The legislative effort to block this use of taxpayer funds was written specifically for the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the first open-borders law firm in the country. The group, which also receives funding from George Soros and the Ford Foundation, has several class-action lawsuits going each challenging the Obama Administration on the issue of detaining illegal alien-minors (including one which alleges detainees were treated inhumanely by being given cold bean burritos). The firm grew out of the National Lawyers Guild, an association of public interest law firms whose parent organization the CIA once described as a Soviet front. According to its early newsletters, NILC’s primary duty is to “protect, defend, and extend the rights of documented and undocumented immigrants in the United States.” Little’s changed since. 

When NILC’s precursor, the National Immigrants’ Rights Council (NIRC), was barred from receiving LSC funds in the eighties it simply shifted its illegal alien program to a “mirror corporation.” NIRC, Inc., the new “separate” organization, was allowed to share staff and office space with its grant-receiving vessel and with the help of its large foundation-backers it went on rack up several successful challenges against illegal alien detainment, including the landmark settlement in Flores v. Reno (1995). Today, the group still receives LSC funding. 

One of the Immigration Reform Law Institute’s current cases involves an attempt to strike down a citizens’ ballot initiative in Oregon that denied driving privileges to illegal aliens in that state. The illegal aliens’ counsel there, the Oregon Law Center, receives numerous grants from the federal government, including from the LSC. But without having proof that their private and public-funds are being commingled, there’s little we or anyone else can do. 

The Congressional Research Service has recognized this problem. On the subject of lobbying, which LSC also prohibits, they’ve pointed out that “the restrictions on lobbying with federal funds generally follow only the funds themselves” and don’t apply to advocacy activities paid for by “one’s own, private resources.” Groups like OLC, in other words, are allowed to spend on prohibited activities, such as illegal alien representation, if they use “private funds” instead of federal funds. This abstract separation should give taxpayers pause. Whether it be funds sourced from the government or a private entity, like the Ford Foundation, that money is fungible and interchangeable between one source and another. Following a recent policy change in the UK which prohibited grant-funded lobbying, commentators there rightly pointed out that with regards to separating private and public funds “it would be difficult to draw a distinction between the two.” But even if non-profit law firms like OLC are properly segregating LSC funds from private funds, at the very least, the taxpayers’ support allows them to free up private funds to be used for lobbying, which of course has the same basic effect.

If the Johnson-Sessions bill doesn’t close up the existing loopholes in LSC-funding it will simply copy what’s already on the books: taxpayer dollars being used to facilitate open-borders.