U.S. Law Center

Thousands of immigrant minors seeking SIJ status

Adults are not the only foreign nationals who come to the United States seeking safety from violence. Children and teenagers also make the journey. Although many arrive without the assistance of an adult, there may be resources available to set them on the course to U.S. permanent residency if that is their goal.

When immigrant minors have been neglected, abused or abandoned, it may not be safe for them to return to their home countries. It may also be against their best interests to be reunited with one or both of their parents. Victims meeting these and other criteria may be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile status. Judges in California’s family, juvenile or probate courts have the authority to grant a court order identifying them as special immigrant juveniles. This status allows them to send an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a green card.

There were 8,739 of these applications approved and a backlog of 4,357 petitions still pending with USCIS at the end of 2015. Many believe the program may allow even higher numbers of children to achieve lawful status in the country, and supporters, including legal professionals, have already helped many to apply for this status.

The federal government provides resources for children in many different situations, and these humanitarian efforts are often available for those who are citizens of other countries, as well. An attorney may be able to help immigrants determine whether they are eligible for programs that provide or protect their legal status.

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune, “Where did unaccompanied migrants go?” Greg Moran, Mar. 11, 2016

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