HELP SIBLINGS ABANDONED BY ABUSIVE FATHER STAY WITH THEIR MOTHER IN MARYLAND

David* and Tomas* are 10-year-old and 8-Year-old siblings from Honduras. Their father and mother separated when the siblings were young, due to the father's abuse of the siblings and their mother. Their father would drink excessively and be violent towards the siblings’ mother, even while the mother was pregnant. The father would hit and verbally abuse the children when they misbehaved. The mother left with the children and started a custody battle. The father eventually stopped visiting and financially supporting the children. In 2019, the mother began receiving anonymous death threats and fled to U.S. with Tomas. David has since arrived to the U.S. and reunified with his mother and brother in 2020. Based on their father’s neglect and abandonment, David and Tomas are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. David and Tomas seek an attorney to represent them in all aspects of their 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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David* and Tomas* are 10-year-old and 8-Year-old siblings from Honduras. Their mother suffered years of abuse at the hands of their father, who would drink excessively and be violent with her. The abuse continued even while she was pregnant, and even once in the presence of the children. The father would hit and curse at the children when they misbehaved. In 2016, their mother left him and took the children with her and filed for custody shortly thereafter, but was forced to share custody with the father. 

When the siblings spent time at the father’s house, they were exposed to a dangerous environment. He ran a business from his house that entailed inviting people over to drink and play games. The siblings recount memories of men becoming extremely drunk, fighting, throwing beer bottles, and even shooting off guns within the house. In 2017, the mother filed a complaint for domestic violence and was granted a protective order against the father the next year. He broke the terms of the protective order but was still allowed visitation. After this, the father stopped visiting the children and stopped paying child support. The mother filed for full custody and shortly thereafter began receiving anonymous death threats. Afraid for her life, she fled to the U.S., but could only afford to take Tomas with her. In 2019, David traveled to the U.S. and is now reunified with his mother and brother in Maryland.  

David and Tomas are eligible for SIJS due to abandonment by their 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 David and Tomas will need to be barred in Maryland or obtain court permission to appear pro hac vice. 

In order to assist David and Tomas, 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. 

Alternatively, the siblings may be eligible for asylum based on abuse from the father. A pro bono attorney will want to further explore this possibility and determine whether asylum is a viable option for the siblings. 

Special consideration: The siblings’ mother was granted full custody in Honduras. However, she does not have copies of these documents and CAIR Coalition’s efforts to obtain the original documents have been unsuccessful so far. The attorney in Honduras is demanding approximately $250 to send the documents. It will be important to obtain the custody order as part of the state court proceedings to request a modification of the order to sole custody. A pro bono attorney officially representing the family may be more successful in this effort than our staff was absent an attorney-client relationship. 

Timeline: Tomas does not have any hearings scheduled. David has a master calendar (scheduling) hearing April 12, 2022 in Baltimore, MD. In response to COVID-19, the courts currently permit attorneys to attend all hearings telephonically. State court custody hearing for SIJS ideally occur within 4 to 6 months, followed by USCIS filing (approvals can take 10 to 12 months). 

              Location: Baltimore, MD (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