Immigration Legal Defense and Universal Representation

As a City, our duty is to keep our community safe and secure and to protect the well-being of our residents. By upholding due process, we will maintain trust in the justice system and our local institutions, including law enforcement. Having efficient, effective and fair representation is the best way to keep the system working and keep us safe.

Background Information

At the July 5, 2017 meeting, the Santa Ana City Council appropriated $65,000.00 in one-time funds to be used as a legal defense fund to provide removal defense. This decision followed prior action by the City Council on May 16, 2017 to pursue the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera)’s Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Cities Network funding opportunity. On October 17, 2017, the City Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Vera Institute of Justice, an independent nonprofit national research and policy organization working with governments to build and improve justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities.

These options were developed as a result of a meeting hosted by the City Attorney in March 2017 with legal service providers, private stakeholders, and City Staff, as well as from subsequent information gathering.

Vera Institute of Justice's Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Network

In June 2017, City staff was notified by Vera that the City of Santa Ana was selected to join the SAFE Cities Network, an initiative that will provide funding for trained legal service providers (LSPs) to represent immigrants facing deportation, or removal proceedings. This partnership includes a one-time catalyst grant from Vera to support the City’s removal defense efforts. Specifically, the City’s participation in the SAFE Cities Network includes the following:

In addition to the $65,000 in City funds, Vera designated $100,000 in one-time funds for the universal representation of detained residents of Santa Ana and Orange County. Universal representation refers to a removal defense model that does not prohibit services to any categories of immigrants in removal proceedings other than those based on income requirements.

Vera provides in-kind support, including technical assistance in identifying and training legal service providers (LSPs), providing opportunities to share best practices with other jurisdictions, providing data collection and research support, and more.

After completing a thorough selection process, the City and Vera selected Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) as the City’s legal service provider (LSP). ImmDef is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, and will utilize their expertise to provide removal defense services to Santa Ana and surrounding community members through their Santa Ana office which opened in early 2018.


For more information about the SAFE Cities Network, click here.

SAFE Cities Network: Quarter 3 Report
Frequently Asked Questions

To contact Immigrant Defenders Law Center; visit:

2101 N. Tustin Ave. Santa Ana, CA 92705
(By appointment only, please call to schedule an appointment)

Tel: (213) 634-0999
Fax: (213) 282-3122