Last week two bills, each with the goal of protecting immigrant rights, passed through their respective chambers in the Colorado legislature. This is the first of two brief summaries of what each piece of legislation hopes to accomplish. The second can be found here.

HB-1194 – Immigration Legal Defense Fund

The Immigration Legal Defense Fund formed by HB-1194 intends to provide legal representation to individuals in immigration proceedings who cannot afford lawyers.

It would do this by awarding grants to organizations that provide legal representation, allowing them to expand their services to those who would not normally be able to afford it.

Studies by the American Immigration Council and the Justice in Government Project have highlighted the importance of legal counsel for those in the Asylum process and have found that many people in the U.S. immigration process cannot afford legal representation.

State Rep. Naquetta Ricks (D-Aurora) is one of the sponsors of the bill and has a first-hand understanding of how important legal counsel is to those in the immigration process. When Ricks was a child, her family fled Liberia and settled in Aurora; Ricks’ family was denied Asylum, however, partly because they could not afford legal representation.

“We kept going through court,” Ricks said in a press release from the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC). “We had newspaper articles to show the trauma that my mom had gone through. … And yet we’re not able to prove our case because we’re not lawyers. We didn’t know the asylum piece.”

HB-1194 passed through the Colorado House on party lines and must now pass through the Senate.