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Telemundo Captures Teen’s Joyful Family Reunion After 7 Months in ICE Prison

Despite Maria Pena Rodas’s eligiblity for a green card as a special immigrant juvenile (“SIJS”), ICE considered her a priority for deportation, locking her up for 7 months.

Yesterday, Maria was reunited with her family in New York after ICE released her detention. She is now  just months away from receiving her green card based on SIJS.

Diego Arias of Telemundo’s “Al Rojo Vivo” was there to capture the happy moment:

Stay of Removal Granted For Special Immigrant Juvenile Detained More than 6 months!

The approval notice of Maria's stay of removal.

The approval notice of Maria’s stay of removal.

ICE tried very hard to deport Maria Pena Rodas, a 19 year old who has always been eligible to obtain her green card as a special immigrant juvenile (“SIJS”). Even after the New York Daily News and Telemundo exposed ICE’s harsh policy towards Maria and others in her situation, ICE steamed forward in its core “business of removal.”

Thankfully, ICE forced us to think hard and creatively on how we could keep Maria here and obtain her permanent residency through SIJS despite her being detained by ICE across the country in California.

Racing against the clock–Maria was scheduled to be deported on March 25–we convinced a Family Court judge in Suffolk County that she had jurisdiction to appoint Maria’s uncle as her guardian and to issue a special findings order.  These Family Court orders made Maria immediately eligible to qualify for her green card as a special immigrant juvenile.

After obtaining the orders, we immediately filed a stay of removal with ICE the following day, which was enough to cancel her deportation while a decision was pending.

Today, we received the great news that the stay of removal was approved and she will be on a flight to NY to be reunited with her uncle tomorrow. 

She will likely be a permanent resident of the United States within 6 months.

In case you were wondering about how a NY court had jurisdiction to appoint a guardian over a child detained in California, here is how:

“Pursuant to SCPA § 1702(2), where an infant is a ‘non-domiciliary of the state but has property situate in that country’ the court ‘may appoint a guardian of his person or property, or both.’”

Maria’s family created a trust account for her in Suffolk County, New York, thereby giving the Family Court jurisdiction to appoint a guardian over her person and property.


Our detained client at GEO center in Texas: “Maggots in the food caused us to start on a hunger strike.”

Our detained client, Angel Guillen, who is only 18 years old and eligible for a green card as a special immigrant juvenile, was a participant in the ongoing hunger strike at the Joe Corley Detention Facility, owned and operated by the GEO Group. (P.S. Please sign his petition for release from detention)

In a phone call today, Angel informed us that he and others decided to start a hunger strike because there were maggots in the food served at the facility.

When the detainees complained to someone at the facility about the maggots, they were told that nothing would be done because no one cares about them.

Today I spoke to the warden at Joe Corley, who told me that there were never any maggots in the food. The warden further stated that the hunger strike was only in response to detainees’ immigration concerns.

We believe our client, who gave up on the hunger strike when he saw many others who were unable to continue. According to the Warden, 12 detainees remain on hunger strike as of today.


A Glimpse of ICE’s True Priorities: Parents of U.S. citizen children with no criminal record.

The Obama administration always speaks of how ICE prioritizes dangerous criminals for deportations. This is not true. Look at the following footage of our client, Wilfredis Ayala Castillo, who is the sole financial support for his 4 year-old U.S. citizen son, Justin. Wilfredis has no criminal history.

On March 22, 2014, ICE headquarters  informed us that they concurred with the Newark Field Office’s decision to deny Wilfredis’ request for prosecutorial discretion. Securing deportations should not be more important than the lives of U.S. citizen children like Justin.

Please take a moment to sign a petition on Wilfredis’ behalf to stop his deportation.


Wilfredis, currently detained by ICE , with his U.S. citizen son Justin, who is only 4 years old. ICE denied Wilfredis's request for discretion and plans to deport him.

Wilfredis, currently detained by ICE , with his U.S. citizen son Justin, who is only 4 years old. ICE denied Wilfredis’s request for discretion and plans to deport him.

Wilfredis Castillo (A #098-651-976) is the most important person in the life of his 4 year old son, Justin, a U.S. citizen who suffers from severe food allergies which  require him to be hospitalized frequently.

Wilfredis is the sole financial provider for Justin. His dad is his best friend.

But ICE is more interested in deporting Wilfredis than ensuring that a U.S. citizen boy who needs his dad in his life is separated from him forever.

Wilfredis has been detained by ICE in New Jersey for one month despite never having been convicted of a crime.

On March 3, ICE denied his request for prosecutorial discretion, even though he clearly falls under the guidelines as set forth in the Morton Memorandum and in the Sandweg Directive because he has a U.S. citizen child who suffers from a severe medical ailment, has resided in the U.S. since 2005, has no criminal history, and who has minimal ties to his native country of Honduras.

The Field Office Director of ICE’s New Jersey Office justified its decision by stating that:

Granting a stay of deportation or removal is reserved for a select group of cases whose circumstances reflect compelling humanitarian factors and, when considered with the mission of the agency, warrant such extraordinary action. The immigration history of this case, when balanced against the positive factors you raise and the agency’s goals, do not warrant a positive exercise of discretion.

This is unacceptable. Wilfredis does have a removal order from 2005. But his son’s entire life should not be sacrificed for the agency’s goal of removing as many individuals as possible irrespective of how it will devastate vulnerable members of our community.

 Please call ICE’s Deputy Assistant Director Andrew Lorenzen Strait at 202-732-4262 and Assistant Field Office Director Mark Vogler at 973-776-3328 to request Wilfredis be granted a stay of removal so that his son does not lose his dad forever. 

Alternatively, please write to Newark.Outeach@ICE.DHS.GOV and Ero.Outreach@ICE.DHS.GOV. Here is a sample script: 

Wilfredis Castillo (A # 098-651-976) is the sole financial provider of 4 year old U.S. citizen son who has severe food allergies and who will be devastated if his father is removed from the United States. He has no criminal convictions.

 Under the Morton Memorandum, Wilfredis is a perfect candidate for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion given how important he is to the welfare of his 4 year old U.S. citizen son, his length of residence in the United States, and the absence of any criminal history. 

 Given that Wilfredis is not a priority for removal under the Morton Memorandum and the Sandweg Directive, I respectfully request that the denial of his stay of removal be reconsidered. 

4 Sisters Granted Special Findings Orders From Family Court Will Now Get Green Cards.

Today the lives of 4 sisters from Central America–aged 16, 12, 10, and 5–have taken a turn for the better: A family court judge granted custody of the children to their mother and also issued a special findings order for each child. What this means is that all 4 sisters, who are currently in deportation proceedings, will now be able to apply for their green cards as special immigrant juveniles.

To top things off, the judge gave them lollipops as a bonus! All credit goes to Ala Amoachi, who managed to weave 4 convoluted stories into one clear legal brief.

Here is a picture of the children with their mother and stepfather:



New York Appellate Court Issues Amazing Special Immigrant Juvenile Decision.

On February 5, 2014, the Appellate Division of the Second Judicial Department in New York issued a splendid decision that will have a huge impact on the future of undocumented children in New York.

In many situations, in order for an undocumented child to obtain residency through Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (“SIJS”), the child must first have someone appointed as their guardian.

Unfortunately, many judges in family court are  skeptical of SIJS and as a result deny guardianship petitions if the natural parent is the petitioner.

In Brooklyn, Queens, Suffolk, and Nassau Counties, family court judges will no longer be able to deny guardianship petitions just because the natural parent is the petitioner. A big HATS OFF to the great  Professor Theo Liebmann  and his students at Hofstra University School of Law’s Youth Advocacy Clinic!

Here is the holding and link to the full decision:

On this appeal, we conclude that the subject children, facing the possibility of being separated from their only parent and returned to their native country where gang members have threatened their lives, may seek to have their natural mother appointed as their guardian as a first step toward obtaining legal residency in the United States.




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