U.S. Law Center

Young immigrants fleeing abuse may be 'too old' for green cards

Since the 1990s, the United States has allowed immigrant children under 21 years old to retain a court appointed guardian if they were victims of abuse or neglect through a Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ) classification. With an SIJ classification, young immigrants have been eligible for a green card that allows them to legally reside in the United States. However, the Trump administration has begun denying applications from immigrants once they reach 18 years old.

In the past two years, there have been more than 2,000 denials. Data shows these denials were more than the total number of denials in the first seven years of the program. Additionally, the Trump administration denied more than 25 percent of applications in 2018 and the denials are expected to increase, according to the Associated Press.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, immigrants must meet all the following requirements to receive an SIJ classification:

  • Under 21 years old
  • Living in the United States
  • Unmarried
  • Have a court-appointed guardian or in custody of the state
  • Suffered abuse, abandonment or neglect by parents

While many young immigrants have met these requirements provided by the federal government, they have still received denial notices for "being too old." Advocates on behalf of the young immigrants suggest that the federal administration cannot control state law. For example, California instated a law a few years ago that allows courts in the state to issue guardianship for young immigrants between 18 and 21 years old. New York holds a similar law; however, the Trump administration continues to deny applications in both states.

If you or someone you love has received a denial notice or have questions concerning a SIJ classification, consult with an experienced immigration attorney. Immigration laws in the United States can be extremely complex, and it is important that you have an attorney helping to fight on your behalf.

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