Help Abandoned Boy Stay Safe with Mother in Virginia (Joshua)

Joshua* is an 11-year-old boy from El Salvador. Shortly after Joshua was born, he and his mother were abandoned by his father. Joshua’s father never wanted him, so they have never had any relationship. His father also never financially supported Joshua or his mother. When Joshua’s mother came to the United States to support her family, Joshua was left without a stable caretaker in an environment where he was attacked and bullied in school. Due to his father’s abandonment and a lack of a viable caretaker, Joshua is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. Joshua 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.   

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Joshua is an 11-year-old boy from El Salvador. Before Joshua was born, his father would abuse and mistreat his mother. As an infant, Joshua’s father abandoned him and his mother. Joshua has never met his father and has never communicated with him because his father never wanted Joshua. Joshua’s father had no interest in parental duties and never financially provided for Joshua. Joshua’s mother was left to raise and support Joshua by herself. 

When Joshua was a young child, his mother migrated to the United States to support her family. In her absence, Joshua lived with his maternal grandmother. While in her care, Joshua attended a school where he was violently bullied by other students. Joshua’s grandmother complained to the school, but nothing changed. Joshua’s grandmother is elderly and is no longer able to take care of him.

Joshua left El Salvador and has reunified with his mother and brother in Virginia. His mother has her own pending asylum application, so an attorney representing Joshua will want to explore if Joshua can be made a derivative of her application. Additionally, the attorney should assess Joshua for trafficking-based relief eligibility. Joshua’s brother is also undergoing immigration proceedings and is in his mother’s custody.

Due to Joshua’s father’s abandonment and a lack of a viable caretaker in El Salvador, Joshua is eligible for SIJS. 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 Joshua will need to be barred in Virginia or obtain court permission to appear pro hac vice.

In order to assist Joshua, a pro bono team will appear in state family court to obtain an order that he meets the requirements for SIJS; prepare and submit a SIJS application package with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; appear with him 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: Joshua has a master (scheduling) hearing on March 2, 2021, in Arlington. 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: Fairfax County, VA (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.