Guatemalan boy escaped abusive mother and gang threats to reunite with father in Maryland
Kirk* is a 13-year-old boy from Guatemala. While he lived with his mother in his home country, he endured emotional and physical abuse from her. His younger sister’s father also routinely abused Kirk and his mother. Gang members also began attempting to recruit Kirk, causing him to fear for his safety. Kirk successfully reunified with his father in Maryland and wants to continue living with him. Due to the abuse and neglect of his mother, Kirk is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. Patricio is looking for an attorney to represent him in all aspects of his SIJS proceedings and, alternatively, help him pursue Asylum or Withholding of Removal due to his fear of returning to Guatemala.
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.
Kirk* is a 13-year-old boy from Guatemala. When he was very young, his father migrated to the United States, and Kirk continued to live with his mother. She emotionally and physically abused Kirk on a regular basis from the time that he was very little. She hit him frequently and “very hard” with a belt, a wooden pallet/stick, or with a leather sheath for machetes. She also would call him “piece of shit” or “stupid” whenever she was mad. Kirk never tried to stop her because he believed that this was normal parenting and that he “deserved it.”
In addition to this abuse from his mother, Kirk also endured ongoing abuse from the father of his younger sister, who did not live with Kirk but lived in the same neighborhood and would come to Kirk’s house frequently. Kirk describes that this man drinks a lot and gets violent, and he would come over and insult Kirk’s mother and start problems. Kirk’s mother did not protect him from this man; to the contrary, Kirk was the one to defend his mother and threaten to call the police on at least one occasion.
As happens with many young boys in Guatemala, gang members began to pressure Kirk to join them and help them do things like distribute drugs. For approximately a year, the gang pressure on Kirk escalated until a gang member told him he had two weeks to join the gang or else. Soon thereafter, Kirk stopped going to school to avoid the gang and then fled to the United States. Based on this history with the gang and Kirk’s fear of what they will do to him if he returns to Guatemala, Kirk may be eligible for fear-based relief such as asylum in addition to SIJS. This is something a pro bono attorney will want to explore further.
Since arriving in the US, Kirk has been living with his father, his father’s partner, and her children in Maryland. Due to the abuse and neglect of his mother, Kirk is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. Kirk needs an attorney to represent him in all aspects of his SIJS proceedings and, alternatively, help him pursue Asylum or Withholding of Removal due to his fear of returning to Guatemala.
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 Kirk will need to be barred in Maryland or obtain court permission to appear pro hac vice.
In order to assist Kirk, a pro bono team will appear in state family court to obtain an order that the children meet the requirements for SIJS; prepare and submit SIJS application packages with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; appear with the children at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services interviews, 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.
Timeline: No Immigration court hearings scheduled yet; State court custody hearing for SIJS ideally within 4 to 6 months, followed by USCIS filing (approvals can take 10 to 12 months). In response to COVID-19, the courts currently permit attorneys to attend all hearings telephonically.
Location: Prince George’s County, MD (not detained)
For more information about this case, please contact Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney Jennifer Grishkin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-866-9287.