December 18 2014

Tens of thousands of Central American children have risked their lives.

However, due to Congress’s failure to pass President Obama’s $45 million supplemental request to provide much needed legal services to these vulnerable Central American child refugees, leadership has been largely up to the private sector, philanthropy, and state and local governments to make sure these vulnerable kids get the help they need.

And while the Obama Administration is doing a laudable job wrangling much needed resources for the child refugees without the help of Congress, California has really stepped up to show once again it isn’t afraid to demonstrate leadership and compassion on difficult and controversial issues.

Both state and local governments in California are stepping up in a big way, as are some of California’s largest philanthropies and law firms.

•    The California Endowment, the James Irvine Foundation and the California Community Foundation, three of California’s largest philanthropies, have announced commitments totaling more than $1 million to provide legal representation for these children.
•    The California Endowment, Univision Communications, Inc. and a diverse range of partners have just concluded an unprecedented awareness and fundraising campaign, generating more than $1.5 million in donations to support children fleeing violence in Central America and seeking refuge in the United States, as well as millions worth of in-kind media support.
•    California’s Assembly recently appropriated $3 million to fund nonprofits providing legal and other services to the child refugees.
•    San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance to provide $2.1 million in funds to pay for legal support for unaccompanied minors and families with cases before the Department of Justice’s Immigration Court in San Francisco.
•    Oakland recently allocated $577,000 to provide legal representation.
•    Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris have taken significant steps to provide legal representation to the refugee children.

While New York and Maryland are also launching noble efforts, they are somewhat dwarfed by California’s response.

That isn’t to say we couldn’t be doing more, but it demonstrates that the Golden State is an appropriate moniker for California. We are a state of immigrants that see diversity as an asset and compassion as an appropriate response to human suffering. I couldn’t be more proud to be a Californian.

I invite you to send a message of compassion to these child refugees. You can do so by clicking on TheyareChildren.com.

Read the White House Fact Sheet on the U.S. response to the Central American Child Refugee Crisis.