NY Daily News Covers ICE’s Aggressive Attempts to Deport Our Client, an Abandoned Child Eligible For a Green Card
Erica Pearson of the New York Daily News wrote an article in today’s paper on ICE’s aggressive attempts to deport our client, a minor abandoned by both her parents who is eligible for a green card.
Here is the article below:
Long Islander Antonio Rodas is fighting to get his 19-year-old niece, Salvadoran Maria Isabel Peña Rodas, out of immigration detention and seeks to become her legal guardian
Federal authorities say Peña Rodas is an adult and deportation priority, but uncle’s lawyers say she is eligible for a special green card for abused or abandoned youth
BY ERICA PEARSON / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
MONDAY, JANUARY 13, 2014, 10:20 PM
CHRISTIE M FARRIELLA FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
A Long Island man fighting to get his niece out of immigration detention wants to become her legal guardian — and his lawyers say she is eligible for a special green card for abused or abandoned youth.
But federal authorities say 19-year-old Maria Isabel Peña Rodas, who left El Salvador last fall, is an adult. And because she’s a recent border crosser, she is a deportation priority.
Border officials caught Peña Rodas in Texas, and she has been in a California detention center for more than four months.
“I am just asking God and immigration to give her a chance to be with us,” said Peña Rodas’ uncle and godfather, Antonio Rodas, 43, of St. James, who has permission to live and work in the U.S. and does prep work at an Italian restaurant.
Rodas’ lawyer Ala Amoachi said Peña Rodas, who was abandoned by her parents and living with her grandmother in El Salvador, should qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, available to abandoned or abused people younger than 21.
“She would be clearly eligible,” Amoachi said. “We said, ‘Why don’t you release her on an order of supervision? Give us some time to get the process started.’ ”
But Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say that isn’t a reason to let Peña Rodas into the U.S. — because she would first need a family court judge to either declare her a court dependent or legally commit her to the care of a guardian.
She would also need a court order saying she can’t be reunited with one or more parents, and for the court to find that it’s in her best interest to stay in the U.S.
“An undocumented individual is only eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status if they are already a ward or dependent of the state court in the state where they reside,” ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said.
Amoachi expects a New York family court would grant Peña Rodas what she needs, but that can’t happen unless she’s in the state. If Peña Rodas were 17, officials would have already released her.
It is ICE’s policy not to detain unaccompanied kids younger than age 18 for more than 48 hours.
She would have instead been turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, within the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, and then either housed in a federal care center or placed with family.
As a growing number of young Central Americans travel alone to the Mexican border — many fleeing abusive homes or gang recruitment — Amoachi said those ages 18 to 20 face a paradox. They are too old to fit ICE’s requirements for release, but still young enough to qualify for a Juvenile Status green card.
Antonio Rodas said his niece told him she feared for her safety in her hometown — that two men had tried to assault her as she walked home from a store. “It would be a better life for her here,” he said.