A far-left open-borders activism group has secured a massive $158 million taxpayer-funded contract to help illegal immigrants avoid deportation, according to reports.
Records show that the group, Vera Institute of Justice, is using the millions of dollars in government funding to bankroll immigration lawyers.
The Vera Institute of Justice, a progressive nonprofit that backs defunding the police and views immigration enforcement agencies as a “threat” to civil liberties, was awarded the contract by Democrat President Joe Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2021.
According to USASpending, a federal contract database, the organization says it spends the tax dollars on providing “immigration-related legal services to unaccompanied minors.”
“The Vera Institute of Justice is a behemoth progressive nonprofit based out of New York City with well over a $140 million budget, which they use to fund a slate of progressive causes and initiatives across the country,” Jason Hopkins, an investigative associate with the Immigration Reform Law Institute, told Fox News.
“Whether that be criminal justice reform, bail reform and also immigration.”
Hopkins said the institute gets around half of its total funding from the taxpayer pot.
“The $158 million is just the latest in the hundreds of millions that they provided to Vera for their services,” Hopkins said.
The contract, which hasn’t been previously reported, began on March 30, 2021, and has a potential end date of March 30, 2022.
Beginning around the start of the contract, HHS rerouted $2 billion intended for health initiatives – including expanded COVID-19 testing – to help deal with the surging border crisis and unaccompanied minors.
A Vera Institute spokesperson said in a statement that the contract was awarded to “provide legal orientation services and, in some cases, legal representation, to children in removal proceedings and detention.”
She said that “a vast majority of federal funding” they receive is subcontracted to legal service providers throughout the country who provide the services in HHS facilities and immigration courts.
The federal government has funded such initiatives since the mid-2000s.
The recent contract appears to be the Vera Institute’s highest value contract for a single year, according to a review of USASpending records.
Hopkins’ group, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, estimated that taxpayers will locally dish out at least $5.6 million in some cities for a deportation legal defense initiative Vera is involved with.
“Vera Institute of Justice has an initiative called Safety and Fairness for Everyone,” Hopkins told Fox News on their state-based endeavors.
“This began several years ago, and it focuses on providing taxpayer-funded legal representation to aliens – even illegal aliens – that are placed in deportation procedures.”
The immigration reform group said this initiative used public funding in 50 jurisdictions, including 22 that are considered formal partners with the Vera Institute.
“What they’ve done is frankly very smart,” Hopkins said.
“It’s sort of a bottom-up approach.”
“Instead of being funded by the federal government and kind of trickling down, this is more of a grassroots approach where they’re going from city to city, county to county and getting these local city governments to create a deportation fund that’s in part funded by taxpayers,” he continued.
Hopkins added that immigration and deportation are civil matters and that the government isn’t required to provide individuals with a taxpayer-funded attorney.
He pointed out that the Vera Institute’s website notes that it “is committed to ensuring that every person facing deportation receives legal representation regardless of … history with the criminal legal system.”
Hopkins told Fox News: “That really opens up the door to—is this an illegal alien who’s been charged, convicted of murder, rape, and any other heinous crime?
“Vera is very open that they really don’t care about their criminal history.”