Judge rules immigrants’ lawsuit can move forward

The Trump administration's focus on U.S. immigration reform was dealt a recent blow in a class action suit brought about by four young-adult immigrants who allege that they were either abused, abandoned, or neglected. Their ultimate goal? To seek Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which will allow them to remain in the country even if their parents face deportation. The Trump administrators had filed a motion to dismiss the case. A motion that was denied. 


What prompted the civil case?

A year ago, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) started to deny the special juvenile status to immigrants who have achieved the age of 18, or are legally consider adults in the U.S. Four immigrants, all over the age of 18, filed a call action suit in the Northern District of California claiming they were still entitled to receive the status as they alleged they were either abused or left by their parents. The outcome they are seeking is not monetary, but the right to stay in the country. 

After filing the class action suit, Judge Nathaniel Cousins granted an injunction to the immigrants, which allowed their case to go forward. This simply meant that the federal government would be prevented from enforcing the new policy and beginning deportation procedures until the case is legally decided. 

The immigration agency's motion to dismiss

In the motion to dismiss, filed by the immigration agency, they stated that the recent change to the age of 18 was not, in fact, changing the policy. It was instead clarifying it, giving an age on what they consider to be a juvenile in the country who have the ability to seek special status. Judge Cousins did not agree, saying that the recent change to statue constitutes an action that is worthy for review under the Administrative Procedure Act. 

Cousins wrote in his ruling, “defendants cannot avoid review by unilaterally claiming that its rulemaking was merely a clarification of the law and pointing to its lack of a formal process as proof.” He rejected the claims of the administration that the changes should be considered either centralization or guidance. 

What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is a way to adjust the status of a minor currently in the country to Lawful Permanent Resident. To qualify for this adjustment of status, there will need to be the presence of abandonment, neglect, or abuse by one or both parents. The minor will have to seek approval through the court system before they are allowed to apply for special status.

Who is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

To be eligible to receive this special status, the minor will be subject to specific requirements including:

  • They have to be residing in the United States currently, even if their residency is considered unlawful. 
  • It has to be found that the minor was abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents, and it is not in the best interest of the child to be returned to their home country. 
  • The petition must be filed when the applicant is a minor. This could be aged 18 or 21 depending on the state that the applicant applies in.

Once someone has received Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, there are limitations on their ability to sponsor others. Some restriction placed on them include:

  • If they are in the process of acquiring Lawful Permanent Resident status through SIJS, they will not be allowed to sponsor their siblings, until the process has competed and they officially become naturalized citizens. 
  • If you have achieved Lawful Permanent Resident status through this special program, they may at no time sponsor their parents. This is due to the fact that the applicants are stating that it was their parents who neglected, abused, or abandoned them, so it would not make sense for them to decide to seek sponsorship.

If you are an immigrant seeking protection from deportation by receiving Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, it is essential to find an attorney that knows the immigration process as well as cases like the one mentioned above that can affect the outcome of your case.

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