SIJS: Salvadoran Girl Abandoned by Father Wants To Stay with Mother in Maryland
Fiona* is an 18-year-old girl from El Salvador who has had no interaction with her father since he and her mother separated when she was about 7 years old. Her parents separated due to Fiona’s father’s chronic alcoholism and abuse of his family. She came to the United States in order to escape the danger of her home country with the support of her mother, who had come to the United States eight years ago. She currently lives with her mother in Maryland. Due to the abuse and neglect of her father, Fiona is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. Fiona seeks an attorney to represent her in all aspects of her 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.
Fiona* is an 18-year-old girl from El Salvador who has had no interaction with her father since he and her mother separated when she was about 7 years old. Her parents separated due to Fiona’s father’s chronic alcoholism and abuse of his family. Fiona came to the United States in order to escape the danger of her home country with the support of her mother, who had come to the United States 8 years ago.
Fiona and her entire family suffered at the hands of her father. However, her mother chose to separate from him because of his refusal to support her children, the fact that he had multiple relationships outside of his relationship with Fiona’s mother, and the fact that Fiona’s father often forced Fiona’s mother to have unprotected sex with him because he believed it was her responsibility to give him children. When Fiona’s mother told him that she would be leaving him, he said that he would have nothing to do with their children if she separated from him. This is a promise he has made good on, as Fiona has had little to no contact with him since she was 8 years old.
Shortly after the separation of Fiona’s parents and the subsequent abandonment of Fiona and her siblings by their father, Fiona’s mother moved to the United States. Fiona then lived with her maternal grandmother, alongside her sisters, so that they would have some support while their mother was gone. This was Fiona’s situation until her mother asked her to come to the United States so that they could be together.
Fiona is eligible for SIJS due to abandonment by her 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 Fiona will need to be barred in Maryland or obtain court permission to appear pro hac vice.
In order to assist Fiona, a pro bono team will appear in state family court to obtain an order that he 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 also may be one or more brief scheduling hearings (“master calendar hearing”) with an Immigration Judge.
Currently, there are no hearings scheduled in Fiona’s removal proceedings. Fiona speaks Spanish and is living in Baltimore County, Maryland.
Timeline: No Immigration court hearings scheduled yet; 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: Baltimore County, Maryland.
For more information about this case, please contact Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney Jennifer Grishkin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-866-9287.
*Pseudonyms are used to protect privacy