El Salvadoran Child Abandoned by Father Wants to Stay with His Family in Virginia

Tommy* is an 11-year-old Spanish-speaking boy from El Salvador. Tommy’s father left his mother when he found out she was pregnant and after age two never spoke or provided financial services to Tommy again. After Tommy’s mother came to the United States, Tommy lived with his maternal grandmother until she became too sick to care for him. Tommy now lives with his mother and stepfather in Virginia. Based on his father’s abandonment, Tommy is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. Tommy seeks an attorney to represent him in all aspects of his SIJS proceedings.

All CAIR Coalition matters placed with a pro bono team are robustly mentored by a CAIR Coalition attorney.  Our mentoring program includes an opening meeting to discuss the scope and process of the matter, provision of samples, guidance on the law, review of draft filings, assistance with client contact, and guidance on preparation for interviews and hearings.  




Tommy is an 11-year-old Spanish-speaking boy from El Salvador. Tommy’s father left his mother when he found out she was pregnant. Tommy and his mother then moved to Honduras. Tommy’s father would visit once every month or two and occasionally send money and items. This gradually decreased until Tommy’s father completely stopped reaching out by the time Tommy was two. Around this time, Tommy and his mother returned to El Salvador to live with Tommy’s maternal grandmother and three maternal uncles. When Tommy was four, his mother came to the United States to provide money for Tommy and his grandmother.


After Tommy’s mother came to the United States, he continued to live with his grandmother. Tommy’s mother continued to provide for Tommy emotionally and financially from the United States. She also met and married a man who has become a loving and caring stepfather to Tommy.


In 2019, when Tommy’s grandmother became too old to care for him, he reunited with his mother in the United States. Tommy’s mother is undocumented and has a prior deportation order. However, she still wants to move forward with Tommy’s case and has confirmed interest in his representation.


Tommy is eligible for SIJS due to abandonment by his biological father. SIJS is available to unaccompanied immigrant children under the age of 21 who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned, who cannot be reunified with one or both parents, and for whom returning to their home country is not in their best interest. SIJS requires three approvals, one from a state family court and two from USCIS. Because a state family court order is required, the attorney who represents Tommy will need to be barred in Virginia or obtain court permission to appear pro hac vice. 

In order to assist Tommy, a pro bono team will appear in state family court to obtain an order that the child meets the requirements for SIJS; prepare and submit an SIJS application package with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; appear with the child at a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services interview, if required; and handle the adjustment of status paperwork. There also may be one or more brief scheduling hearings (“master calendar hearing”) with an Immigration Judge. 


Currently, there are no hearings scheduled in Tommy’s removal proceedings. Tommy speaks Spanish and is living in Fairfax County, Virginia with his mother and stepfather.


Timeline: As of July 15, 2020, there are no currently scheduled hearings in this case; State court custody hearings for SIJS ideally within 4 to 6 months, followed by USCIS filing (approvals can take 10 to 12 months).

          Location: Fairfax County, Virginia (not detained)

          Language: Spanish


For more information about this case, please contact Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney Jennifer Grishkin at jennifer@caircoalition.org or 202-866-9287.


*Pseudonyms are used to protect privacy