SIJS (MD): SIBLINGS NEGLECTED BY MOTHER AND SUBJECTED TO ABUSE NEED ATTORNEY TO HELP THEM STAY WITH LOVING FATHER IN MARYLAND (Ava and Henry)

[content warning: discusses sexual assault upon a child] 

 

Ava* and Henry* are 14- and 10-year-old siblings from Honduras. They lived with both their parents until their parents separated and their father moved to the U.S. While their father was in the U.S., Ava and Henry continued to live with their mother and her new partner Adam*. Adam sexually assaulted Ava when she was 13 years old. The assault continued until Ava told her mother and grandmother, who forced Adam out of the house. Despite knowing that Adam had tried to rape Ava, their mother continued to have a relationship with Adam. Ava and Henry have reunified with their father in Maryland and need the help of a pro bono attorney so that they can continue living with their father. Due to their mother’s neglect, Ava and Henry are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). They are seeking a pro bono attorney to represent them in their immigration proceedings and all aspects of their SIJS applications. Because Ava was sexually assaulted by Adam, a man her mother continues to be in a relationship with, Ava may also be eligible for asylum, and a pro bono attorney should explore that as another 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.       

****  

 

Ava* and Henry* are 14- and 10-year-old siblings from Honduras. They lived with both their parents until their parents separated and their father moved to the U.S. While their father was in the U.S., Ava and Henry lived with their mother and her new partner Adam*. In 2021, when Ava was just 13 years old, Adam sexually assaulted her. Adam regularly would get drunk and inappropriately touch Ava. In one instance, Adam tried to rape Ava but she fought him off. After the attempted rape, Ava locked herself in her room for weeks and refused to talk to anyone. Ava told her mom, who was shocked, yet continued to have a relationship with Adam. Their mother told Ava that she could not tell anyone in their community or family. Ava’s mother did nothing to address the sexual assault.  

 

In 2022, Ava and Henry traveled to the U.S. in order to reunify with their father in Maryland. After being detained at the border, Ava and Henry were placed in immigration detention and then reunified with their father. The children told their father about the sexual assault, and he confronted their mother on the phone. During this call, their mother claimed that she filed a police report, but the children and their father have no evidence that she actually did so although they have been trying to obtain the report.   

 

Ava and Henry want to continue living with their father, who has enrolled them in school and is sending them to summer school so they can improve their English in preparation for the Fall semester. Due to their mother’s neglect, Ava and Henry are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). They are seeking a pro bono attorney to represent them in their immigration proceedings and all aspects of their SIJS application. Because Ava was sexually assaulted by Adam, a man her mother continues to be in a relationship with, Ava may also be eligible for asylum, and a pro bono attorney should explore that as another form of relief. 

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 Ava and Henry will need to be barred in Maryland or obtain court permission to appear pro hac vice.   

Special consideration: Both children have experienced trauma and will need trauma-informed representation. The CAIR Coalition mentor will provide resources and guidance on these issues.  

  • Timeline: Ava and Henry do not have any hearings scheduled currently. State court custody hearings for SIJS ideally occur to within 4 to 6 months, followed by USCIS filing (approvals can take 8 to 10 months). 

  • Location: Montgomery County, MD (not detained) 

  • Language: Spanish - will require a fluent Spanish-speaking pro bono team member or a translator    

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