SIJS(MD)/Children’s Asylum: Help Brothers from El Salvador escape gang violence and remain with their mother.
Dax* and Elan* are 14- and 6-year-old children from El Salvador who want to remain in the United States with their mother. The brothers have different fathers, but Dax has never known his father, and Elan’s father abandoned him when Elan was only a year old. Neither child’s father communicates with them, and neither support them financially or emotionally. The brothers currently live in Baltimore County, Maryland with their mother. Based on their fathers’ abandonment, they are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. Dax and Elan need an attorney to represent each of them in their SIJS proceedings. Additionally, the boys fear returning to El Salvador because a violent gang has threatened them and are eligible for asylum or withholding of removal.
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.
Dax* and Elan* are 14- and 6-year-old children from El Salvador who want to remain in the United States with their mother. Dax’s mother conceived him when she was gang-raped. (Dax does not know this, and his mother does not want him to know.) Dax’s mother does not know the identity of her attackers, so she also does not know who Dax’s father is. She did, however, report the rape to the police.
Elan was abandoned by his father at the age of one. Elan’s father gave some financial support to Elan’s mother, but he did not financially or emotionally support Elan. Both Dax and Elan currently live in Baltimore County, Maryland with their mother.
Before leaving El Salvador, the gang that raped Dax and Elan’s mother threatened her because she reported the rape to the police. When their mother left El Salvador, she left the children in the care of their abusive maternal grandmother (their mother was unaware of the abuse). Their aunt and uncle cared for them with church leaders, but they all fled in 2017 due to direct gang threats. The children would not have an adult to live with if they returned to El Salvador. Dax and Elan also are afraid to return to El Salvador because they have received death threats from the same gang that attacked and threatened their mother.
Based on their fathers’ abandonment, Dax and Elan are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. Dax and Elan need an attorney to represent them in all aspects of their SIJS proceedings and, alternatively, an asylum claim or withholding of removal based on their fear of returning to El Salvador.
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 Dax and Elan, 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.
** Note about Joint representation: Dax does not know that he was conceived when his mother was gang-raped, and his mother does not want him to know it. This issue will require a sensitive and careful approach by the pro bono team.
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: Baltimore County, MD.
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