California’ Gov. Jerry Brown has requested, and lawmakers have approved, $3 million in state money to provide help for children fleeing violence. Some 3,900 of them live in the state, and officials hope the money can start going out in two or three weeks.
Making the money available is “the decent thing to do, and it’s consistent with the progressive spirit of California,” Brown said in a statement.
“We’re not sending the National Guard to confront these children as other states have done,” said Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, vice-chairman of the Latino legislative caucus, taking a jab at Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to deploy troops to the Texas-Mexico border.
Democrats control both houses of the state legislature, and can pass the funding without Republican approval. But Republicans — who say they still need to review the legislation — may decide to support it as well. The issue could help win Latino voter support in the November election; GOP spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said her party hopes to work with Democrats to ensure that children’s rights are protected.
The legislation will also give state courts the jurisdiction to make findings needed for federal officials to grant special immigrant juvenile status to the minors. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said children need a ruling from a state court before they can make an asylum claim in federal court.
“Too many state judges aren’t aware of this requirement and are denying any form of preliminary state relief because they think this is just a federal immigration issue,” Steinberg said.