Tito Jackson calls for city defense fund for immigrants

Tito Jackson proposed a legal defense fund for immigrants in Boston at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. Jackson announced his bid for mayor last month.
Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe
Tito Jackson proposed a legal defense fund for immigrants in Boston at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. Jackson announced his bid for mayor last month.

Councilor Tito Jackson, who is running for mayor, proposed Wednesday creating a city-sponsored defense fund to support legal challenges involving immigrants.

“We’re a nation, a city, and state of laws, and it’s critical that people get due process,” Jackson said at the city council meeting. “We must protect residents in this city of Boston so that they have the ability to get jobs.”

Jackson’s pitch comes in the wake of President Trump’s recent efforts to withhold federal funding from cities that do not proactively cooperate with national authorities on deportations. The councilor from Roxbury is challenging Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who has enjoyed a surge of national publicity from blasting Trump’s orders.


At a press conference last month, Walsh, nearly in tears, declared City Hall a “last resort” for undocumented residents. In the weeks that followed, the mayor completed several national interviews, including on CNN and “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah, a popular political roundup on Comedy Central.

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“As the mayor of a city that’s primarily first-generation immigrant city, I think it’s important for me to stand up, and there’s other great mayors around the country that have stood up as well,” said Walsh on Noah’s show, which aired Tuesday evening.

If Washington “truly wants to deal with fixing immigration,” Walsh said, then Republicans and Democrats need to come together on reform. “That’s the way you do it, not by putting out threats.”

Enter Jackson. Critics may see his proposal as political jockeying in the nascent mayoral contest. But in his pitch to councilors, Jackson said a defense fund would be the right thing to do, and pointed to cities that have similar initiatives, including Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Oakland.

Jackson stressed that it was important to not only say Boston is a “city of immigrants,” but also procure public and private funds to support immigrants navigating a complicated legal system. He cited statistics from Boston’s immigration court that showed immigrants with a lawyer are drastically more likely to win their cases.


“We should do the right thing that’s socially just and right, but we should also do the right thing for our economy,” Jackson said. “We benefit greatly from immigrants.”

In the end, Jackson’s fellow councilors approved his request for a hearing on the fund.

Councilor Josh Zakim said he was cautious about the city’s tight budget, but he thought the fund could rely on private donations to succeed.

Councilor Andrea Campbell said she would like to see the immigrant defense fund happen, also through private funding.

“In addition to universities and companies that funds this work, we have an incredible array of law firms that do this work,” Campbell said. “We always should be looking for ways to partner and be proactive and support the work that others are already doing.”

Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon
. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH.