Yesterday, I noted on twitter that it is probably a good idea for young people to retain competent counsel if they are applying for deferred action, even if the application process “appears” to be simple. Why? Primarily because there is an inherent risk of deportation. Deferred Action is not law. It is a declaration from the Executive Branch that can be reversed overnight with another declaration.
There are other compelling reasons to retain, or at least consult with, counsel. Unknown to much of the public, and even many immigration attorneys, is a form of relief called “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status,” (SIJS) which if obtained, gives an immigrant the opportunity to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent resident. A real “legalization”.
One positive outcome that I have seen so far from the Deferred Action announcement is increased interest and activity among immigrant youth who are looking to improve their life and that of their families. Many young people who inquire about deferred action will also be eligible for SIJS. If a young immigrant is eligible for SIJS, applying for Deferred Action would be dangerous as well as a waste of time and money.
A similar scenario happened with a consultation at our office. A young woman called to inquire about deferred action. She was not eligible. However, we soon discovered that she had a strong case for SIJS, a real and permanent legalization.
The basic requirements in order to be eligile for SIJS are as follows:
Children under the age of twenty-one who are unmarried and have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents.
In order to obtain SIJS, an applicant must first go to family court to request a motion for special findings.* If the applicant is successful in family court, they can then petition the Department of Homeland Security to be classified as a “Special Immigrant Juvenile” with the I-360 form. Once the I-360 form is approved, the applicant can then petition to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
IMPORTANT: To qualify, the applicant’s I-360 must be filed (i.e. date of receipt by immigration) before he/she reaches the age of 21.
SIJS, unlike Deferred Action, is certainly more legally complicated, especially given that the applicant has to go to Family Court and either to the Immigration Court or USCIS.
We also have a substantial amount of SIJS cases and have not lost one yet. Depending on who the family court judge is, a SIJS case can be relatively straightforward or extremely complicated.
Given the above, any deferred action dreamer under the age of 21 who does not have a good relationship with one or both of their parents should consult with an attorney experienced in Special Immigrant Juvenile cases to see if they are eligible. Far too many kids have aged out of this form of relief simply out of ignorance (of both the kids AND the legal community).