Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a path to permanent residency for minor immigrants. This special status is intended to help protect children who have suffered abuse, neglect, or abandonment at the hands of one or both parents. In order to qualify for this status, an authorized state court must find that reunification with one or both of the child’s parents is not viable due to the abuse, abandonment, or neglect and that it is not in the child’s best interest to return to their home country or last country of habitual residence.
SIJS cases involve an appearance in state court and representation in removal proceedings in immigration court. We rely on pro bono volunteers to handle the state court portion of the case, representing the custodian in his or her application for custody, while we represent the juvenile in immigration court. A favorable state court custody order allows us to argue for permanent status for the juvenile in immigration court.
What is involved:
We meet with both the juvenile and the custodian to identify the merits of the case. We only assign cases to pro bono attorneys that are NOT under strict deadlines and that are NOT expected to be contested by the Defendant parent(s).
We then assign the case to the pro bono attorney to take the following steps:
- Meet with the juvenile and the custodian.
- Draft and file the complaint in Mecklenburg County family court.
- Effect service on the defendant parent(s) (often in foreign countries)
- File the affidavit of service and any other filings
- Attend a calendar call (usually virtually)
- Attend a hearing (usually virtual, approximately 15-30 minutes.)
- Draft and submit a proposed order.
Total time commitment: 15-25 hours over period of about one year