HELP ABANDONED SIBLINGS STAY SAFE IN MARYLAND (Talia & Franco)
Talia* and Franco* are 15-year-old and 13-year-old siblings from El Salvador. When Talia and Franco were very young, their father abandoned them. Their father never had any relationship with his children and never financially supported them, leaving their mother to be the sole provider. When Talia’s and Franco’s mother received threats from the gangs in their neighborhood, the mother fled El Salvador and came to the United States. After their mother's departure, Talia and Franco lived with their maternal grandparents until they became too old and sick to take care of the children. Since coming to the United States, Talia and Franco have been reunited with their mother in Maryland. Based on their father’s abandonment and the lack of a viable caretaker in El Salvador, Talia and Franco are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. Talia and Franco seek an attorney to represent them in all aspects of their SIJS proceedings.
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Talia and Franco are 15-year-old and 13-year-old siblings from El Salvador. Talia’s and Franco’s father abandoned them when they were babies so Talia and Franco never had a relationship with their father. The father was often drunk and rarely visited his children. He also never financially supported his children even though Talia and Franco’s mother had received a court order to force the father to pay child support. Consequently, Talia and Franco were raised by their single mother.
Growing up, Talia and Franco lived in a gang-ridden neighborhood. The children were constantly at risk of gang violence, threats, and extortion, and when Talia was 10 and Franco was 8, their mother received a series of armed threats from the gangs. They would come to Talia and Franco’s home and would threaten their mother with violence. To escape this danger, Talia and Franco’s mother fled El Salvador, leaving the children in the care of their maternal grandparents and maternal uncle.
While living with their grandparents and uncle, Talia and Franco continued to live in a dangerous neighborhood where they were at risk of gang violence. Eventually, their grandparents grew too old and the uncle grew sick so they were no longer able to take care of Talia and Franco. Left without a viable caretaker, Talia and Franco left El Salvador and reunified with their mother in Maryland.
Talia and Franco’s mother has already applied for asylum and has a court hearing planned for 2021. It is possible for Talia and Franco to be added on as derivatives to their mother's application, but would have to be a case strategy decision considering their mother's application could be denied. A pro bono attorney may want to explore asylum claims for Talia and Franco.
Due to their father’s abandonment and the lack of a viable caretaker in El Salvador, Talia and Franco are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. 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 Talia and Franco will need to be barred in Maryland or obtain court permission to appear pro hac vice.
In order to assist Talia and Franco, 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 a SIJS application package with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; appear with the children 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.
Timeline: No scheduled Immigration Court hearings. 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.
For more information about this case, please contact Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney Jennifer Grishkin at email@example.com or 202-866-9287.
*Pseudonyms are used to protect privacy