SIJS: Salvadoran Siblings Abandoned By Father Want to Stay With Mother in Maryland

Alicia* and Gabriel* are 13- and 10-year-old children from El Salvador who are looking to remain in the United States with their mother. Seven years ago, they were abandoned by their father in El Salvador after their parents separated. Their father has not had any communication with them since the separation and does not support them financially or emotionally. They currently live in Montgomery County, Maryland with their mother. Based on their father’s abandonment, they are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. Alicia and Gabriel are seeking an attorney to represent them in all aspects of his 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.  


Alicia and Gabriel are 13- and 10-year-old children from El Salvador who want to remain in the United States with their mother. Seven years ago, they were abandoned by their father in El Salvador after their parents separated. Since their father separated from their mother they have not had any contact with him, and he has not provided any financial or emotional support to the children. After their father and mother separated, their mother traveled to the United States to work and send money back to them in El Salvador. They stayed with their maternal grandparents in El Salvador when their mother came to the United States. Their mother has continued to support them financially and emotionally.


Alicia and Gabriel are eligible for SIJS due to abandonment by their 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 these siblings will need to be barred in Maryland or obtain court permission to appear pro hac vice. 


In order to assist Alicia and Gabriel, a pro bono team will appear in state family court to obtain an order that the children meet the requirements for SIJS; prepare and submit SIJS application packages with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; appear with the children at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services interviews, 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. 


The siblings also have a 15-year-old sister with whom they share the same biological parents. Because they share the same biological father, we think it likely that the pro bono attorney would seek SIJS for her as well.


Currently, there are no hearings scheduled in Alicia or Gabriel’s removal proceedings.


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: Montgomery County, MD. 

Language: Spanish


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