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Federal Judge Rules For Juvenile Immigrants Against DHS and USCIS

juvenile immigrant walking on railroad tracks

A federal judge in New York just issued the latest order challenging the immigration policies implemented by the current administration. The ruling allows certain young immigrants who have been abused to be given special immigration status by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Read on for details about the case and the potential implications, and contact a dedicated Queens immigration attorney for help in your immigration case.

Federal Judge Throws out New USCIS Policy

The recent case involved the application of certain policies by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) concerning Special Immigration Juvenile (SIJ) petitions. SIJ classification is available for immigrant juveniles who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by their parents. SIJ status allows juvenile immigrants to remain in the U.S. under the care of an appointed guardian rather than being forced to return to their abusive families in another country. Immigrants with SIJ status are eligible to apply for a Green Card.

We previously discussed the administration’s new and unannounced approach to SIJ applications: Whereas the official policy allowed juveniles up to age 21 to apply for special status, the USCIS has been summarily denying applications for juveniles over the age of 18, even when the petitioner had obtained an order from a New York court before turning 18 that declared their circumstances merited a guardianship. The new policy was challenged in federal court, and a judge in the Southern District of New York struck down the policy.

The federal court officially declared that the USCIS policy violated the official SIJ statute. The statute permits SIJ applications up to age 21, regardless of state law concerning family court jurisdiction. States like New York allow family courts to retain jurisdiction up to age 21, in any case, so the policy makes no sense in those states. Moreover, USCIS should not be interpreting New York law (which it did incorrectly), nor should USCIS have a blanket policy based on some state laws. The court ruled that the USCIS policy was arbitrary and capricious, was based on an erroneous application of state law, and was implemented without proper notice. If juveniles aged over 18 are to be made ineligible for SIJ status, the change must come from Congress, not the USCIS. The court determined that all New York SIJ petitioners aged 18-20 could proceed as a class, and all would be notified that they can have their eligibility for SIJ reconsidered.

Call Attorneys Gladstein & Messinger for Questions about Your Immigration Status

If you have questions or concerns about your citizenship or visa status, contact the dedicated and experienced Queens immigration lawyers at Gladstein & Messinger at 718-793-7800 or toll-free at 800-339-0535.

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