Spotlight on Prince George’s County, Maryland

In December 2016, Prince George’s County Council Member Deni Taveras introduced a resolution celebrating community diversity and rejecting bias, discrimination, hate, and harassment.[]See Prince George’s County Resolution CR-002-2017 at The council unanimously passed the resolution, which led to creation of the Immigrant Services and Language Access (ISLA) program. With initial funding of $100,000, ISLA established a legal representation program for detained county residents facing deportation and sought to improve language access for government services. The county selected the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition—a provider with a long history of representing adults in local detention facilities—and CASA de Maryland, an immigrant-led community-based organization headquartered in Prince George’s County, to implement the program.

During the program’s initial year, CAIR Coalition led county council briefings, presenting data and stories about clients that demonstrated both positive impacts on the community and continuing unmet needs. CAIR Coalition’s work was strengthened by collaborating with CASA, which offers wraparound services to community members under the program and supports people’s cases. Together, CAIR Coalition, CASA, and Council Member Taveras successfully advocated for the program to scale up in funding and reach. The county council has incrementally increased funding, approving a $500,000 commitment for fiscal year 2021. The council has also stabilized the program by approving multiyear funding commitments. As Taveras noted, “The ISLA program has planted the seeds for a transformation of our government and county. With every year this program is in place, we keep adding to the ways in which we integrate, serve, and protect immigrants in our community.”[]Deni Taveras, city council member, Prince George’s County, Maryland, September 3, 2020, via e-mail.

According to Kelly White, who leads CAIR Coalition’s work representing detained adults, the county council’s multiyear investment has had an impact in three significant ways:[]Kelly White, program director, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, August 12, 2020, via email.

  • It ensures continuity of zealous representation for cases that take more than one year to conclude, including people who have been released and those who may face prolonged detention beyond the initial contract year.
  • It strengthens the quality of representation by allowing CAIR Coalition to attract stronger candidates with a commitment of ongoing job security.
  • It attracts new investors by assuring them of ISLA’s stability and long-term sustainability. In June 2020, Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC) made a significant resource investment in the program. IJC is a fellowship program that mobilizes, trains and supports young attorneys and advocates and partners them with legal providers and community-based organizations. With the county funding of $500,000 and IJC’s investment of $900,000 in staffing, ISLA immigration attorneys now expect to represent every detained and unrepresented person in Prince George’s County.