San Francisco Approves Funding of Legal Services for Unaccompanied Minors and Families Facing Deportation

In mid-September of this year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved $2.1 million for legal services for unaccompanied minors and families living in San Francisco without representation who face deportation to Central America. The funding was approved due to legislation introduced by Supervisor David Campos. The funding will apply to cases on the San Francisco Immigration Court’s expedited removal docket, often referred to as the “rocket docket.”

This recent funding approval in San Francisco is now looked to as a model to provide funds for legal representation in other jurisdictions since the federal government does not provide legal representation for undocumented immigrants in removal proceedings.

The Center for Gender and Refugee Studies and the American Immigration Lawyers Association Northern California were among the groups that supported the funding. Partner Minette Kwok is on the Center’s board. Associate Olivia S. Lee is on AILA NorCal’s board.

Jon Cote of the San Francisco Chronicle described the legal crisis:

More than 25,000 deportation proceedings are pending in San Francisco, and, as of the end of June, at least 4,100 involved juveniles, according to an analysis of court data by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

The Syracuse study found that about 2,200 of those children do not have legal representation, which heavily influences their future: Only 1 in 10 juveniles who appeared in immigration court in recent years without a lawyer was allowed to stay in the U.S., according to the university’s analysis.

By contrast, almost 50 percent of children with legal representation were allowed to remain in the country, the university found.

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