TEENAGER ABANDONED BY FATHER AND FLEEING GANGS NEEDS ASSISTANCE (Agustin)

Agustin* is a 16-year-old boy from El Salvador. Agustin was abandoned by his father before his birth and has only spoken with his father one time. In 2020, a local gang started to try to recruit Agustin  and threatened his life if he refused to join. Despite warnings from the gang that they would kill Agustin if we went to the authorities, he and his mother reported the gang to the local police. But the only help the police gave him was to advise him to leave the country. Shortly thereafter, Agustin fled El Salvador in order to live with his brother Kendrick* in Virginia. Augustin seeks a pro bono attorney to represent him in all aspects of his SIJS proceedings. Based on his father’s abandonment, Agustin is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a statutory form of relief that combines both state court and federal immigration components. Based on his interactions with the gang and his fear of returning to El Salvador, he may also qualify for an asylum.

 

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.    

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Agustin* is a 16-year-old boy from El Salvador. Agustin grew up living with his mother and his brother, Kendrick. Because Agustin got along so well with Kendrick, he would frequently live with his maternal grandparents who also took care of Kendrick. He attended school regularly and was in the process of finishing the 9th grade before he was forced to move to the U.S out of a fear for his life.

            In late 2020, a gang began trying to enlist Agustin. Members of the gang would approach him on the street, make it known that they could recognize him, and pressure him to join. In one instance, armed members of the gang dragged him to a dark place with guns on their hips and told Agustin that joining the gang would be good for him. When Agustin would tell them that “he did not like [what the gang did],” they would threaten to find him and his family. The gang that tried to recruit Agustin is known to dismember and kill the friends and family of those who refuse to join them or report them to the police.

Despite recognizing the danger that going to the police would put him and his family in, Agustin still filed a report with the police. When the police told him and his mother that his best option was to leave the country, Agustin’s mother saved up the money to buy him a trip to the U.S so that he could reunify with his older brother Kendrick.  

Kendrick who is also Agustin’s ORR sponsor, fled El Salvador for the same reasons as Agustin -- out of a fear of the gangs. When Kendrick was 9 years old, the same gang that tried to recruit Agusti, killed Kendrick’s father. Kendrick is currently in deportation proceedings but has already retained counsel. Agustin now lives with Kendrick in Virginia and hopes to return to high school and live a normal life once his grades arrive from El Salvador.

Agustin is eligible for SIJS due to the abandonment by his 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 Agustin will need to be barred in Virginia or obtain court permission to appear pro hac vice.

In order to assist Agustin, a pro bono team will appear in state family court to obtain an order that the child meets the requirements for SIJS; prepare and submit a SIJS application package with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; appear with the child 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. 

Agustin’s pro bono team also will want to consider asylum as a possible form of relief. Agustin may qualify based on his fear of the gang and the likelihood that they will persecute him if he returns to El Salvador.

  • Timeline: Agustin does not have any hearings scheduled currently.  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).   
  • Location: Fairfax County, Virginia (not detained)   
  • Language: Spanish - will need a 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