Governor Brown and legislative leaders have reached an agreement to provide $3 million for legal assistance to unaccompanied minors in California.
The funding is needed because the U.S. Congress failed to deal with the unprecedented arrival of thousands of children at the U.S. border prior to its summer recess. Federal law requires that unaccompanied minors receive legal assistance during immigration court proceedings to determine their eligibility for political asylum.
The requirement is specified in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 – passed by a voice vote in the House and unanimous consent in the Senate in the final days of the Bush Administration. Children from bordering nations – Canada and Mexico – are not given such legal protection and instead bused immediately back to their home nation.
The 2008 law was never meant to apply to such a large number of minors and inadequately staffed immigration courts were rapidly swamped. Federal authorities have been trying to fast track the proceedings – called “rocket docket” - and providing only days for migrants to obtain an attorney.
The funding should be authorized before the end of the legislative session.