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Calif. bill would pay for lawyers for unaccompanied minor immigrants

SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - California would spend $3 million on lawyers for unaccompanied minors arriving in California from Central America under a proposal announced Thursday by top California Democrats.

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, along with Attorney General Kamala Harris and the leaders of both houses of the legislature, said they planned to submit legislation authorizing the expenditure to help children who have been streaming over borders in Southwest states since last fall.

The move follows prior advocacy by Harris, who had personally asked some of the state's leading law firms to provide pro-bono representation for the children, many of whom are fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

"These young people have legal rights and responsibilities, but they cannot fully participate in complex immigration proceedings without an attorney,” said Harris said Thursday. “It is critical that these children, many of whom are fleeing extreme violence in Central America, have access to due process and adequate legal representation.‎”

Central American children began flooding the border at crossing points in Texas earlier this year, overwhelming local officials and leading the federal government to send thousands to other states for processing.

By the end of June, about 3,000 of the children had been sent to California, and more have come since.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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