Thursday, April 19, 2018

Trump Administration Changes Rule for Abused Young Immigrants

The Trump Administration has stopped a Program that lets Foreigners obtain a Green Card if they are between 18 and 21 years old and have been Abused, Abandoned, or Neglected by at least One Parent. So far, 81 People in the New York area have been Denied Legal Residency because of the Change, and as many as 1,000 People Statewide could be affected.

Under the New Interpretation, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said that Applicants in New York who were over 18, but not yet 21, when they began the Application Process No Longer Qualify.

For the last 10 years, Cases like theirs have routinely been Approved. But as the Trump Administration focuses on Limiting All Forms of Immigration and tries to stop the Flow of Unaccompanied Minors at the Mexico-United States Border, it appears to be Targeting the Special Immigrant Status. President Trump often invokes Fear that these Immigrants could belong to MS-13, the Transnational Gang, and that they are committing Fraud in their Applications.

“They are looking for what he calls ‘loopholes,’ and what we call protections, and trying to close them,” said Wendy Young, the Executive Director of Kids In Need of Defense, a Nonprofit Organization that represents Young Immigrants who come to the Country Unaccompanied. “Under this administration, everybody is presenting a fraudulent claim, rather than, ‘Why is this child here and do they need protection?’”

Although there are other States that follow a Process similar to New York’s, including California, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Washington, Lawyers believe that New York has seen the most Denials. In the last week, the Legal Aid Society said, the Immigration Agency has also sent a handful of Notices to New York-area Clients saying they were going to Revoke Applications that had previously been Approved.

“When do immigrants get to rely on decisions from U.S.C.I.S.?” asked Eve Stotland, the Legal Director for The Door, an Organization that works with Disadvantaged Youth in New York. “What if the client is naturalized? You spin into a place of arbitrariness and absurdity, and a failure to follow the rule of law.”

Jonathan Withington, a Spokesman for the Agency, said: “U.S.C.I.S. has not issued any new guidance or policy directives regarding the adjudication of S.I.J. petitions. We remain committed to adjudicating each petition individually based on the merits of the case and safeguarding the integrity of our lawful immigration system.”

The Federal Law establishing Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status was first Enacted as part of the Immigration Act of 1990 and then expanded in 2008. To obtain it, Applicants must first have a Ruling from their State’s Juvenile Court, finding that they have been Abused, Abandoned, or Neglected. A Judge must also Declare the Young Person Dependent on the Court, or Appoint a Caretaker. In the Second part of the process, the Applicant submits the Judge’s Order to the Immigration Agency.

The Trump Administration seems to be narrowly Reinterpreting the Law, saying that in Cases where Applicants are over 18, they No Longer Qualify, because the State Court’s Authority ends at that Age. According to its Reasoning in one Denial Letter, “once a person attains the age of 18, the family courts lack jurisdiction over the person’s custody.”

Those over 18 can be Appointed Guardians, however, which the Immigration Agency now does not Consider the same as Custody. Lawyers say that’s Semantics, since in State Law, Guardianship and Custody have Equal Rights and Responsibilities.

“Nothing in the federal statutes has changed; only the interpretation has changed,” Beth Krause, the Supervising Attorney for the Immigrant Youth Project at The Legal Aid Society of New York, said. “And now, U.S.C.I.S. is interpreting this in a way to cut out a very large portion of kids who, until the past couple of weeks, had gotten these grants under the same facts.”

“It’s a bad faith argument,” said Rebecca McBride, a Lawyer at Atlas: DIY, a Nonprofit Organization helping Immigrant Youth in Brooklyn, who Represents several People with Special Immigrant status.

The Immigration Agency Declined to Explain the Change, saying in an Email response, “A petitioner must submit a court order issued by a juvenile court that contains specific determinations made under relevant state law.” It referred to a Policy Manual Rewritten in October 2016. The Agency pointed to the dramatic increase in SIJ Applications in recent years, with 11,335 Approved Applications in 2017 compared with 1,590 in 2010, with the greatest Increase coming after the surge of Central American Minors coming to the U.S. in 2014.

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