Mayor approves $1.8M for legal defense of immigrant children

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SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — An additional $1.8 million has been approved by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to provide for the legal defense of unaccompanied immigrant minors facing deportation, the mayor’s office announced Wednesday.

The money will be given to a group of organizations called the San Francisco Immigrant Legal Defense Collaborative, which consists of organizations such as the San Francisco Bar Association, the Central American Resource Center of Northern California, or CARECEN, and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

Lee said in a statement that as a son of immigrant parents, the success of immigrant families is a personal issue.

“I am committed to working together with my partners throughout the Bay Area to support families forced to flee war-torn countries,” he said.

SFILDC staff provides legal representation and help to unaccompanied minors and their families living in San Francisco who have fled their home countries because of war or abuse and are facing expedited deportation proceedings in San Francisco Immigration Court, according to the website for the group.

Lee and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave initial money in 2014 for two years of representation through the SFILDC. That funding provided legal representation for 414 children.

The new $1.8 million will provide funding for the next two years, SFILDC legal director Avantika Shastri said.

Shastri said because immigration court is a civil court, defendants are not entitled to a public defender as in criminal court, so the money for legal representation is vital.

A surge of immigrant families — mainly women and children — to the U.S. Southwest from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico began in the spring and summer of 2014, according to the SFILDC.

“Children fleeing Central America and Mexico are forced to migrate due to extreme poverty and violence in the region,” CARECEN executive director Lariza Dugan-Cuadra said in a statement.

The money will also allows immigrant children to enroll in school and obtain social services, according to the mayor’s office.

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