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Phil Matier: Undocumented Immigrants To Get Private Legal Help Under CA Attorney General's Plan

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) - The wave of immigrant children coming to California from Central America and needing legal assistance has spurred action from state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Harris is asking private law firms to provide free legal services to immigrant children facing deportation hearings. She has called for a sit-down on Wednesday in her San Francisco office with not only attorneys, but also representatives of non-profits, legal-aid groups and charities.

Phil Matier: CA Attorney General Kamala Harris Asks For Help In Providing Legal Services For Immigrant Children

There is a growing need for law firms to provide pro bono services to the thousands of children who have fled the violence in their Central American homelands. Although it's unclear exactly how many children have made their way to California, the federal immigration courts in San Francisco said they are handling about 80 youth cases a day. Officials with the court said about 90 percent of the children who show up without a lawyer are sent home, while only about half with attorneys are deported.

Legal cases aside, the issue is reaching much further than just the courts. Schools in both San Francisco and Oakland have seen a marked increase in the enrollment of immigrant children who came to this country unaccompanied. There are many challenges for them in school – from a language barrier to gaps in education. Many schools have hired private counselors to help with the process. Then there is the cost of social services for years to come.

California Governor Jerry Brown has called the influx of immigrant children a "humanitarian crisis," but with her actions, Harris is also making it a political issue. She is putting the stamp of her political power behind the crisis, and with that, also making sure the issue will stay in the headlines for years to come, and not just a few days.


You can hear Phil Matier's comments Monday through Friday at 7:50am and 5:50pm on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

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