SIJS: Help a Guatemalan Boy Targeted by a Gang for his Religiosity Stay with his Uncle in Virginia

Walfred* is a child from Guatemala. His father has never been in his life, and he has been exclusively supported by his mother’s side of the family. He came to the United States to live with his maternal uncle in Virginia because gang members began targeting him because of his religious views. He is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) based on his father’s abandonment.


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.  




Walfred* is a 17-year-old boy from Guatemala. He has never known or received contact or support from his father, although he believes that his father knows he exists. Walfred’s mother has a good relationship with him and supports him, but she is still in Guatemala with her husband (Walfred’s stepfather) and their children. Walfred currently lives in the United States with his maternal uncle.


Walfred is a religious boy who would carry a Bible with him and went to church every day in Guatemala. Beginning in 2018, gang members began harassing and targeting Walfred. They pressured him to smoke marijuana, but he refused because of his religious beliefs. Additionally, the gang members would insult him, make fun of his religiosity, and push him. Walfred noticed that the gang members targeted him specifically and would leave others alone. He fled Guatemala to escape the gang and to have a better future here.


Walfred is eligible for SIJS due to abandonment by his 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.


In order to assist Walfred, 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 an 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 may also be a brief scheduling hearing with an Immigration Judge. 


Walfred speaks Spanish and is living in Manassas, Virginia.


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