SIJS: Salvadoran girl abandoned by her father needs state court representation to remain in the United States

Giselle* is a girl from El Salvador whose father abandoned her and her family when she was a young child. Giselle is currently living in Maryland with her maternal uncle and maternal grandmother and wants to remain with them rather than return to El Salvador. She is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) based on her 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.  


Giselle is 18 years old and from El Salvador. She lived with both of her parents at first, but her father left the family when she was very young. Giselle does not know why her father left and does not know where he went. Giselle grew up with her mother, her maternal grandmother, and two siblings. Both of Giselle’s siblings and her mother still live in El Salvador.

When Giselle was in sixth grade, her family contacted her father by showing up at his workplace. The family saw her father about five times until one day they showed up at his workplace and he was gone. Giselle says that her father did send her mother some money when they needed it, but this was not routine and no longer occurs. Since the last encounter at her father’s workplace, Giselle has not heard from her father and has no idea where he is. She had contact with his mother a few years ago when she needed money to pay for an expensive medical test, but she has not been in contact with her paternal grandmother since.

Giselle went to school in El Salvador until ninth grade. She came to the U.S. to finish her studies and to have a better future. She wants to stay in the U.S. with her uncle and maternal grandmother to have these opportunities.

Giselle 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.

In order to assist Giselle, a pro bono team will appear in state family court to obtain an order establishing that she meets the requirements for SIJS. After obtaining this predicate order, the pro bono team will hand the case off to CAIR Coalition for the lengthy immigration portion of the SIJS process. CAIR Coalition will submit an SIJS application package with USCIS, appear with the child at a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services interview, if required, and handle the adjustment of status paperwork.

Giselle speaks Spanish and is living in Maryland.


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.