Many Houston residents are foreign-born and lacking immigration documents that are needed to live and work in the United States. In fact, more than one quarter of the population of Harris County is made up of people that were born outside of the United States.

On Feb. 25, a majority of commissioners in Harris County voted in favor of a new program that would help the county’s immigrant population with its legal issues. The Immigration Legal Services Program is a fund that will provide free legal aid for Harris County residents who are at risk of deportation. According to estimates, there are over 18,300 people in the county who are in need of immigration-related legal services. Many of these people are detained families with children.

At the meeting, several community groups, political leaders and religious leaders talked about how immigrants benefit Harris County with entrepreneurship and diversity. One speaker said that the federal immigration system was tearing families apart. A few people spoke out against the program saying that taxpayers shouldn’t pay to help people who have broken the law.

Many people who are facing deportation have a legal right to stay in the country, but they are not able to effectively present their case by themselves. An immigration attorney may be able to advocate for an individual who is at risk of being deported and separated from their family. With legal representation, a deportation case may be delayed and ultimately dismissed so that an immigrant can begin the process of applying for legal residency or citizenship.