Special Juvenile Immigrant Status (SIJS) is a program that is designed for people under the age of 21 who have been neglected, abused, abandoned or have a deceased parent, and who cannot return to their home countries because they have no one to care for or protect them.The program requires state family court to find that the child has been abused, neglected or abandoned by his/her parent, and needs a caretaker or guardian. An immigration attorney must then submit a package to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with documentation which supports the findings. After review and approval by USCIS, the child will receive legal permanent residency (a “green card”). The child may apply for citizenship three years later.
A problem has arisen recently which threatens the ability for young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 to qualify for the program. The Trump administration is now routinely denying applications for young adults over the age of 18, based upon the argument that someone over the age of 18 does not require a guardian.Government officials defend their actions by falsely stating that the young applicants could belong to MS-13, and are committing fraud in their applications. Lawyers have noted that more than 1,000 young people from across the state have been affected.
Immigration attorneys, like those at Zwaik, Gilbert and Associates, have consequently stressed that it is extremely important for clients to file SIJ petitions for young people before they reach their 18th birthday. While important, however, all hope is not lost for minors over the age of 18. Attorneys throughout the country are filing class action lawsuits (involving many clients in the same situation) in federal court on behalf of clients who have been improperly denied SIJ status. For example, on June 7, 2018, the Legal Aid Society of New York sued USCIS officials in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, on behalf of three 19 and 20-year-old immigrant minors who were improperly denied SIJ status after a state court found them eligible. This case, and many others around the country, are currently pending before United States District Courts. Clients may proceed with their applications if granted by the district courts, because the courts’ decisions will outweigh any administration regulations. The outcome of these lawsuits will influence the ability of young adults to file for SIJ status in the coming years. Lawyers predict that we will see varied results throughout the country, based upon local judges’ perceptions and attitudes about immigration.
If you or a loved one is applying for Special Juvenile Immigration Status, you need a competent and knowledgeable Immigration Attorney who can show that you are an eligible and deserving applicant. Zwaik, Gilbert and Associates have over thirty years of experience representing clients throughout the New York metropolitan area. An attorney will evaluate the circumstances of your case, and be your advocate and guide you through the guardianship process. Our attorneys are assertive, compassionate and personable, and well regarded in the legal community. You can trust Zwaik, Gilbert and Associates to give your family the care and attention that they deserve.