HONDURAN CHILD WHOSE FATHER ABANDONED HER AND UNCLE ABUSED HER WANTS TO STAY SAFE WITH MOTHER IN MARYLAND
Sara* is a 17-year-old Spanish speaking girl from Honduras. Sara’s father abandoned her mother when he found out that she was pregnant and never financially provided for Sara nor was he ever a parental figure for her. After her mother left for the United States, Sara and her sisters were taken care of by an emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive uncle who robbed and beat them. Sara now safely lives in Maryland with her mother. Due to her father's abandonment, Sara is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. Sara seeks an attorney to represent her in all aspects of her SIJS proceedings. Sara may also be eligible for asylum based on her uncle’s abuse, and a pro bono attorney will want to further explore her eligibility for that form of relief.
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.
Sara is a 17-year-old Spanish speaking girl from Honduras. When Sara’s mother found out that she was pregnant with Sara, the father left and never provided for or contacted the family. Sara’s mother was forced to raise Sara and her three younger half-sisters with their grandmother since the father abandoned them. Sara’s mother eventually immigrated to the United States, from which she sent money to her daughters.
Within the first year under her grandmother's care, Sara’s uncle would frequent the house. He would visit the sisters and began to sexually abuse Sara and one of her younger sisters; at this time, Sara was 9 years old and her sister was 6 years old. Sara is hesitant to discuss this abuse and has not revealed it to her mother, so a pro bono attorney will need to handle this subject with sensitivity.
When Sara was 14 years old, her uncle moved into her grandmother's house to live with Sara and her sisters. For nearly two years, he treated Sara and her sisters as his servants; he would demand that they cook and clean for him and even buy him things with the money that they received from their mother. The uncle became violent and would beat the sisters if they did not listen to him. Every week, he would hit and beat Sara with a belt until she was heavily bruised.
Eventually, the uncle moved out of the house after Sara’s mom threatened to call the police on him. However, even after leaving the house, Sara’s uncle was extremely manipulative. He would harass the grandmother to give him money and he would rob the girls; he was a known thief with ties to the gang in their neighborhood..
The town that Sara and her sisters were being raised in was violent and unsafe for young girls so in 2019, Sara fled Honduras for a better life in the United States with her mother. She wanted to study and live with her mother in Maryland where she would be safe from gang violence and her abusive uncle.
Due to her father’s abandonment, Sara is 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 Sara will need to be barred in Maryland or obtain court permission to appear pro hac vice.
In order to assist Sara, 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 a SIJS application package with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; appear with the child 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.
As noted above, Sara may also qualify for asylum based on her uncle’s abuse. A pro bono attorney will want to further explore these facts and further assess her eligibility for asylum as a form of immigration relief.
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 Georges County, MD (not detained)
*Pseudonyms are used to protect privacy