Kristian* is a 17-year-old boy from Guatemala. Kristian came to the United States to escape an abusive and neglectful father as well as death threats he was receiving in school. During his childhood, Kristian’s father would yell at Kristian and his siblings on a daily basis and would beat his mom. Whatever money his father received he would spend on alcohol, leaving Kristian unable to afford even a pair of shoes, and forcing his siblings to begin working at an early age to support the family. When Kristian was 12, a boy in his school who was connected to the gangs began threatening Kristian, saying that he would kill him. Kristian moved to a new city, began working at 13, and changed his phone number to avoid being found by the boy and his family. Shortly thereafter, and with no future in sight in Guatemala, Kristian decided to move to the U.S. to get a good education and to live with his uncle. Based on his father’s neglect, abuse, and abandonment, Kristian is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. Kristian may also have a viable claim for asylum, and a pro bono attorney will want to evaluate this further.


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.    





Kristian* is a 17-year-old boy from Guatemala. Growing up, Kristian lived with his mother, father, and five siblings. When Kristian was a child, he began to notice that his father would spend all the family’s money on alcohol, leaving Kristian and his family with nothing to live on. Kristian’s father would yell at Kristian and beat his mother when he became drunk, and though Kristian tried to defend his mother from his father’s abuse, he was too young to stop him. He describes his life growing up as being terrible in Guatemala due to his terrorizing father.


            When Kristian was 12, a boy in his school, James*, began threatening Kristian’s life. Kristian’s mother had helped arrange the funeral for a man who James’s father had murdered. James’s uncle and father were both members of the local gang. They believed that Kristian’s mom had reported the murder to the police and was the reason that James’s father was in jail. On one occasion, a member of James’s family approached Kristian’s mother on the street and grabbed her by the shirt. Kristian and his mother knew that it was dangerous to be on the radar of the gangs.


Prompted by the death threats, Kristian and his mom fled to the capital city of Honduras and changed their phone numbers, attempting to vanish from James’s family. Moving away from their home also allowed them to escape the abuse of Kristian’s father. Once they arrived in the capital, Kristian’s family no longer had the means to support themselves, so Kristian dropped out of school and gave up his education in order to provide for his family. Kristian was just 13 years old at the time.

Kristian now lives in Maryland with his uncle and wants to remain in the U.S. so he can pursue the academic interests he was forced to relinquish in Guatemala.


Kevin is eligible for SIJS, which 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 Kristian will need to be barred in Maryland or obtain court permission to appear pro hac vice.

In order to assist Kristian, 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 SIJS application packages with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; appear with the child 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. 

Because of the death threats that Kristian and his family received as well as his fear of returning to Guatemala, a pro bono attorney will want to assess whether Kristian is also eligible for asylum.

  • 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 4 to 8 months).
  • Location: Montgomery County, MD (not detained)   
  • Language: Spanish - will require a fluent Spanish-speaking pro bono team member or an outside interpreter

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

*Pseudonyms are used to protect privacy   


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