What We’re Doing to Deliver Safety, Trust, and Justice in a More Diverse America

At a time when the promise of justice for all appears to be in grave danger—from escalating attacks on immigrant communities to long-standing conflicts between police and communities of color—we are fighting to protect and restore core American ideals that are the hallmark of our democratic society: safeguarding justice for everyone, protecting vulnerable families and communities, and building a more diverse and inclusive America. 

Detentions and deportations are condemning hundreds of thousands of immigrant residents to face a life sentence of separation from their loved ones, their livelihoods, and their communities. These injustices strike at the principles upon which the American legal system is based: rights of due process, equal treatment, and access to legal counsel. Our immigrant communities are justifiably afraid. By launching the SAFE (Safety and Fairness for Everyone) Cities Network, we are working to ensure that immigrants will not be detained and permanently separated from their families solely because of their inability to afford a lawyer.

More than a dozen cities and counties across the nation—including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, San Antonio, and Oakland—joined us to provide universal, high-quality legal representation for people facing immigration detention and deportation. In the last year, we have worked closely with participating Network cities to set up their programs, and select and provide training for their legal service providers. SAFE Cities builds on the pioneering New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), which Vera co-founded in 2014. NYIFUP began in New York City and has since expanded to offer legal counsel for all indigent immigrants detained and facing deportation in New York State. Our new, groundbreaking analysis of the NYIFUP program revealed that immigrants provided with an attorney can increase their odds of a successful case outcome by 1,100 percent—and that allowing immigrants to remain with their families has significant social and economic benefits.

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Recent calls for increased “law and order” are adding to the already high levels of alienation, anger, and mistrust between police and communities. In response to urgent calls for help from community advocates and police professionals, we developed and launched PEACE (Police Enhancing Accountability through Community Engagement). This innovative initiative was successfully piloted in Asheville, North Carolina, where we worked closely with the Asheville Police Department (APD) and 16 community groups (including Black Lives Matter and the Racial Justice Coalition) to carefully navigate several difficult questions about policing in the wake of a fatal, officer-involved shooting. Our facilitation led to a renewed level of understanding and trust between the APD and the communities it serves, as well as revised use of force and de-escalation policies designed to avoid tragic interactions in the future. Over the next two years, PEACE will actively assist police and community members in several cities and counties to cooperatively take a thoughtful, but critical look at police policies that could be strengthened with community input and the expertise of national policing experts. PEACE will help bolster police-community partnerships, build a foundation for further collaboration, and cultivate a strong narrative about policing based on public accountability and trust.