CA Attorney General Asks Lawyers to Aid in Border Crisis

Published 07/25 2014 05:16PM

Updated 07/25 2014 06:09PM

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is asking lawyers to get involved with the ongoing immigration crisis at the border.

Harris is asking major law firms to offer legal assistance pro bono to those entering the country illegally to ensure they have access to due process.

About 57,000 unaccompanied children from Central America have crossed the border illegally since October.

At the San Joaquin College of Law, professor Gregory Olson is the legal director for the New American Legal Clinic.

Olson says most Central Valley law firms and non-profits aren't large enough and have limited resources to be able to extend pro bono services to aid in the ongoing border crisis.

"There's probably not too much that the firms here and most of the non-profits [can do]. We already have stuff that we're working on. It would be very hard for us to take on this type of case," Olson explains.

Still, he says, all people have a right to due process under the U.S. Constitution. Those in the legal community want to make sure that happens.

"The Bill of Rights has been found to protect even non-citizens because when you're in our country, we believe these rights are inalienable, that everybody deserves to receive them," Olson says.

Most of the unaccompanied minors have traveled from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

More than 360,000 deportation cases are pending, and those involving minors aren't that simple.

"If you're coming all the way from Guatemala up through Mexico, then you go up to the border, if you get turned away at the border, you're not in your home country," Olson says.

In 2008, former President George W. Bush signed in a law where unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico or Canada would not be immediately turned away.

The law was aimed at combatting human trafficking.

But Olson says, "What's happened is that all these people that aren't from Mexico or Canada are now arriving at the border knowing that they won't be turned away," Olson says.

He adds that even with legal representation, if there's no basis under immigration law, the children couldn't legally stay in the U.S.

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