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LAUSD students facing deportation may get help from school attorneys



Central American immigrants ride north on top of a freight train on Aug. 6, 2013 near Juchitan, Mexico. Thousands of Central American migrants ride the trains through Mexico to reach the U.S. border.
Central American immigrants ride north on top of a freight train on Aug. 6, 2013 near Juchitan, Mexico. Thousands of Central American migrants ride the trains through Mexico to reach the U.S. border.
John Moore/Getty Images

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The Los Angeles Unified School District school board is weighing whether to allow 10 to 15 district attorneys to assist students with their deportation cases.

"Every day that we leave students in our district without the possibility of getting this representation is a day too long," said board member Steve Zimmer at Tuesday's meeting. 

The district's legal counsel is seeking to establish a program, Advocating for Youth Unaccompanied in Deportation Actions, in which each attorney would assist one of about 5,000 children with cases pending in the Los Angeles Immigration Court. About 60 percent of the children do not have representation, according to district documents.

School board members heard from one student seeking help, 16-year-old Brian Ramirez from Guatemala.

"I entered the country 11 days ago," said Ramirez in Spanish. "I was detained in Texas, because I entered the country without any documents or anything. And I have a court date, but I’m in need of  a lawyer who can support us." 

Board members spoke in favor of the effort to help the students, but asked pointed questions. 

“We really need to do this right. Are we going to take every case?” asked board member Monica Ratliff. 

The district's legal counsel said his office would only assist in a small number of cases, but couldn't say how officials would chose which students to take on.

Board member George McKenna asked whether the district would be working with local law enforcement. But district officials did not reply to his question.

Lacking immediate answers, the board was reluctant to move forward on the program.

“I would recommend postponing for a month while these questions are answered," Ratliff said, a suggestion that other board members supported.

The board is scheduled to revisit the issue at its meeting on Feb. 10.