Immigration issues are nothing new in the U.S. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, officials and teachers have long dealt with students who may not have been in the country legally. The LAUSD is the second largest school district in the nation. This fact, coupled with California’s high immigrant population, means that there are thousands of students in the city who are at risk for being deported.
Many of these youths are no longer under the care of their families. The parents may have already been deported or some tragedy has befallen that casts the child adrift. With limited resources, these children face immigration courts without the benefit of adult guidance and certainly without legal counsel.
A new resolution passed by the LAUSD is aimed at addressing this. The general counsel’s office for the school district proposed offering students free legal help with deportation issues. Interested lawyers are permitted to represent one student at a time. They are limited to providing between one and three hours each week to the student. Thus far, 10 attorneys employed by the district have expressed interest in joining this strictly volunteer endeavor. The school district would require the lawyers to make up any work time that they devote to providing free legal services.
The resolution passed, but not without dissent. Some board members expressed concern that so much focus was being given to one legal issue when families within the school district could easily be facing many other troubling legal situations without benefit of counsel. Moreover, there are so many students in the LAUSD who are facing deportation, that it seems certain that the 10 involved attorneys can’t possibly address all of their needs.
Nonetheless, the need for these minors to have legal representation is clear. Statistics suggest that nearly three quarters of students who have legal counsel and are facing deportation are allowed to remain in the country. Only 15% of children who do not have a lawyer receive permission to stay in America. This new program is an important step in protecting the legal rights of students attending L.A.’s public schools.