La Junta de Supervisores de San Francisco aprobó $2.1 millones en servicios legales para jóvenes inmigrantes que enfrentan deportación después de buscar refugio en los EEUU. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved $2.1 million in legal services for immigrant youths who now face deportation after seeking refuge in the United States. Photos Dhoryan Rizo

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved $2.1 million in legal services Sept. 16 for immigrant youths who have escaped violence in their homelands of Central America but now face deportation.

The board unanimously passed the item in response to the massive influx of immigrant children and subsequent number of cases pending in the San Francisco Immigration Court, which has since tripled in the past three years, creating a shortage of attorneys to represent the youth.

Supervisor David Campos introduced the legislation to allocate the money over the next two years from the city’s $58 million budget reserve fund.

“The governments of these children have failed them in their native countries. They are escaping violence and persecution, and they’re coming to this country because they want to be safe,” said Campos, who himself immigrated to the United States from Guatemala at age 14. “We as a country have an obligation to at least give these kids due process.”

Legal aid for unaccompanied minors has been pursued more urgently after a directive was issued by the Obama administration in July, which accelerated action on immigration cases, spurring a so-called “rocket docket” where juvenile cases are heard all together and court dates are scheduled earlier.

In a June 30 letter to Congress, Obama said he would like more immigration judges, attorneys and asylum officers to enable “the prompt removal of individuals who do not qualify for asylum or other forms of relief from removal.”

Supervisor David Campos Photo Dhoryan Rizo

According to Sept. 2 analysis by the San Francisco Budget and Legislative Analyst’s office, there have already been 865 juvenile cases filed in San Francisco Immigration Court this year.

About a dozen children attended the board meeting and were presented with certificates of honor to recognize each one of them. They shared their stories and thanked the supervisors for their decision.

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to have attorneys so that we can stay here longer,” said Natalie Ulloa, a 9-year-old girl from El Salvador, who arrived just two weeks prior to the meeting.

“I hope that you can help us have an opportunity,” said Isabel, another young girl from El Salvador. “We are defenseless in our own countries.”

Brian, a young boy from Central America, also said humbly: “You are giving us the opportunity to be here and be somebody.”
Since October 2013, a total of 66,127 unaccompanied minors have arrived in United States’ municipalities from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

A handful of cities are joining San Francisco in offering legal aid, including Chicago, St. Louis and Bell, CA, which have all taken steps to provide help for immigrant youth.