California Bill Could Provide Legal Support for Migrant Children

By Julianne Hing Aug 22, 2014

A new proposal from California Governor Jerry Brown and State Attorney General Kamala Harris aims to provide $3 million to non-profits which would provide legal representation for unaccompanied minor children navigating their way through the immigration system, KPCC reports.

People, including children, do not have a right to an attorney when they face deportation proceedings or must go to immigration court. As immigration courts swell with the demanding caseload exacerbated by an influx of new child migrants arriving from Central America, advocates have sought to make sure that children do not have to face the system alone.

Leslie Berestein Rojas reported for KPCC:

"These young people have legal rights and responsibilities, but they cannot fully participate in complex immigration proceedings without an attorney," said Harris, according to a statement from the governor’s press office. "It is critical that these children, many of whom are fleeing extreme violence in Central America, have access to due process and adequate legal representation.?"

The recent influx of child migrants from Central America, many seeking asylum, has overburdened the pro-bono and low-cost legal providers that serve immigrant communities. Few families can afford attorneys on their own, and there aren’t enough non-profit legal service providers to go around, said Kevin Johnson is dean of the UC Davis School of Law.

A report earlier this summer found that migrant children with legal representation are much likelier to show up for immigration court than those without.

While the numbers of new arrivals have dropped, children deportees are facing harrowing conditions. In Honduras, that has meant death for children who tried to seek refuge in the U.S. but were deported, the Los Angeles Times reported this week.