By Eric L. Steckel
Last night, before a raucous crowd, Oakland City Council Member Noel Gallo, District 5, gave an impassioned plea in support of some of the most vulnerable in our society.
Council member Gallo proposed an amendment to the city’s biennial budget calling for continued funding for legal services to unaccompanied minors (UMs) from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Several hundred children have fled persecution and violence in Central America and have come to Alameda County. Many of them now live in Oakland, with relatives who have long-standing ties to the community. These children face deportation and are unlikely to win their cases without an attorney to represent them in immigration court. Council member Gallo’s proposed amendment will continue funding free legal services to these children and youth who otherwise could not afford legal counsel.
Last year, Catholic Charities of the East Bay, a social services agency serving Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, joined a coalition of legal service providers to address the many needs of the children and families of UMs. The coalition, founded by East Bay Sanctuary Covenant and Centro Legal de la Raza, secured funding from the City of Oakland to provide free legal services to these children and families, and Catholic Charities created an unaccompanied minors legal practice area. However, funding for these critical legal services was not budgeted in the 2015-2017 Biennial Budget.
“Without legal support, many of the minors facing deportation will be sent back to their native countries, and may face continued persecution or worse, death.” said Christopher Martinez, director of legal services at Catholic Charities. “So the services our coalition provides truly saves lives.”
If passed, Councilmember Gallo’s amendment will extend legal services for UMs for another two years.
We need your help. Residents of Oakland: Please contact the President of the City Council Lynette Gibson McElhaney and your District Councilmember. Urge them to extend funding of these important services.
Council District 1 – Dan Kalb – email@example.com
Council District 2 – Abel J. Guillen – firstname.lastname@example.org
Council District 3 – Lynette Gibson McElhaney (Council President) – CFarmer@oaklandnet.com
Council District 4 – Annie Campbell Washington – ACampbellWashington@oaklandnet.com
Council District 5 – Noel Gallo – email@example.com
Council District 6 – Desley Brooks – firstname.lastname@example.org
Council District 7 – Larry Reid – email@example.com
Councilmember At Large – Rebecca Kaplan – firstname.lastname@example.org
I am contacting you on behalf of the hundreds of unaccompanied minors in the City of Oakland. I urge you to support Councilmember Noel Gallo’s budget amendment to extend funding for legal services to unaccompanied minors (UMs) from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. We hope, in the name of all people concerned with human rights, that we will hear from you about this matter at the earliest possible opportunity.