Most people living in the United States can’t begin to imagine why a child would be sent on a dangerous journey away from their home to another country, but it happens. Children without parents need protection, and the government of the United States has created certain laws to provide extra protection to some children that arrive at the border without their parents. One protection afforded to some children is a legal status called Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, or SIJS.
SIJS can be granted to a minor residing in the United States who has been identified as an “unaccompanied minor” by the Department of Homeland Security and someone that has been abandoned, neglected, etc. by one or both of his or her parents.
To provide an example, I will mention one of our clients, who I will call Juan. Juan is from Guatemala. Juan’s parents noticed that street gangs were trying to recruit him to join, and Juan’s situation was becoming very dangerous. The family could not count on local police to provide protection for their son. They made the very difficult decision to send Juan to the border of the United States, where they hoped he would live with a family friend who was a U.S. citizen, originally from their town in Guatemala. Juan arrived at the border and was detained by immigration, but was released to live with the family friend and to fight his case in immigration court.
Our office obtained a guardianship for the family friend in state court, then we helped Juan apply for SIJS benefits. When the time was right, we asked the immigration judge to close his immigration court case so he could become a U.S. permanent resident. It was an honor for me to attend his interview in Indianapolis and deliver his green card to him a few days later. He is now an adult, working hard and enjoying his life in the United States. He has been able to visit Guatemala and return, and in a couple of years if everything goes well he will become a U.S. citizen and get his U.S. passport.
As an attorney I would never recommend sending a child to the U.S. border, with or without assistance. However, if you are aware of a child that is now living in the United States that may qualify for SIJS, feel free to call our office. There are strict time limitations for this benefit and not every child qualifies. Call us at 317-567-0000 to ask any questions you may have about SIJS or any immigration matter.