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California governor signs bill to fund lawyers for unaccompanied immigrant children

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SACRAMENTO, California — Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed into law a bill to fund lawyers for unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings following a surge in the arrival of Central American children on the border.

The legislation appropriates $3 million to qualified nonprofit organizations to help represent the children in deportation proceedings.

Nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border in the last fiscal year, many fleeing gang threats and violence. Federal government data shows more than 4,600 of the children have been sent to live with sponsors in California.

State Senator Ricardo Lara, chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus, welcomed the signing of the bill into law.

"Deportation for some of these kids is tantamount to a virtual death sentence so it's important that they have access to the adequate legal representation," Lara said in a statement.

Immigrant advocates have been ramping up efforts to recruit more volunteer lawyers to take on the children's cases, noting most unaccompanied minors don't have attorneys.

Brown also signed legislation to clarify the role of state courts in making findings to let unaccompanied minors apply for a federal government program that awards green cards to abused and abandoned children.

Some of the children who recently arrived on the border will apply for special immigrant juvenile status, while others may seek asylum.

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