Congress passed The Immigration Act of 1990, 8 USC 1101 to provide a procedure by which certain young or minor aliens could be classified a “special immigrant affording that alien the opportunity to maintain residence in the United States. The purpose was to protect abused, neglected, and abandoned unaccompanied minors through a process that allows them to become permanent legal residents.
Under what procedure then can such minors acquire SIJ status? Unlike other immigration matters, a state juvenile court must make a preliminary determination of the child’s dependency and his or her best interests, which is a prerequisite to an application to adjust status as a special immigrant juvenile. In 1997 Congress amended the law to require that a court, in its order, determine that the juvenile (1) is eligible for long-term foster care due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and (2) has been declared a dependent of a juvenile court or committed or placed with a state agency. Then in 2008 it expanded eligibility to include juvenile immigrants whom a court has committed to or placed in the custody of an individual or a state-appointed entity — not just those whom a court has committed to or placed with a state agency or department and also removed the requirement that a state juvenile court find that a juvenile is eligible for long-term foster care because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Instead a petitioner only needed to show that reunification – with parents or guardian- is not possible because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
Thus, a court must find either that an immigrant has been (a) “declared dependent on a juvenile court” or (b) “legally committed to, or placed under the custody of” a state agency or department or “an individual or entity appointed by a State or juvenile court located in the United States. Once either of those findings are made, the court must then “`ma[k]e two additional findings: (1) that reunification with one or both of the immigrant’s parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis found under State law; and (2) that it would not be in the alien’s best interest to be returned to the alien’s or parent’s previous country of nationality or country of last habitual residence.'” 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J)(i) & (ii). If such a court does make these findings, USCIS can then conclude the individual has attained SIJ status.
At The Shulman Law Group, LLC our immigration lawyers have experience with those who are in the United States, and have been adjudicated delinquent and/or subsequently placed in the care and custody or a state or local agency or department. Our lawyers are constantly seeking to find creative solutions to our clients’ deportation problems by staying abreast of new laws and regulations in addition to federal court decisions affecting immigrants.