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San Francisco to help fund immigration attorneys

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- San Francisco will become the first city in California to provide funding to help immigrants who face deportation obtain an attorney, officials announced Wednesday.

The $100,000 will go to the nonprofit Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, which will use it to provide free legal representation for immigrants living in the country illegally, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/1qKKKBl ).

Supervisor David Chiu, who created the program, said San Francisco is the first city in the state to offer such assistance. It's an expansion of the city's Right to Civil Counsel program that had focused on tenants facing evictions.

A lack of legal support has become more urgent as an influx of children and families fleeing escalating violence in Central America cross the border, Chiu said. More than 25,000 deportation proceedings are pending in the city, and at least 4,100 of them involve children, according to an analysis by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the newspaper said.

More than half of those children do not have legal representation. The U.S. Justice Department has ordered immigration courts to make cases involving unaccompanied minors entering the country a priority.

“For `justice for all' to mean anything, we have to make sure that individuals have at least a fighting chance to stay in our country,” said Chiu, the son of Taiwanese immigrants.

New York City has a similar program, and California Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials recently announced a proposal to provide $3 million to immigration attorneys.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com

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