~ by Lucy Grindon, National Catholic Reporter
Four Catholic Charities branches and three Catholic legal organizations have signed onto a letter urging top U.S. immigration officials to address the concerns of Special Immigrant Juvenile, or SIJ status holders who remain at risk of deportation despite their eligibility to apply for green cards.
Special Immigrant Juvenile status was created by Congress in 1990 to help young people who have been abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both of their parents, said Anthony Enriquez, who directs the Unaccompanied Minors Program within the Catholic Charities of New York’s Immigrant and Refugee Services office. The status, which must be determined by a family court, is also sometimes granted to orphans.
Those with Special Immigrant Juvenile status are eligible to apply for green cards, but because Congress classifies SIJ-based green cards as employment-based immigrant visas, these green cards are subject to country caps on employment-based immigrant visas. (This is in spite of the fact that many children who hold SIJ status are not nearly old enough to work.) Because of these caps and the backlog they have created, SIJ status holders now have to wait years before they can submit their green card applications.
“Clearly, Congress intended this to be a fast-acting immigration benefit for exceptionally vulnerable young people, and unfortunately, because a large number of young people have come from difficult circumstances, there are a large number of people…whose suffering is prolonged. Besides facing the threat of deportation, SIJ status holds cannot work legally, receive federal student financial aid or get married, despite being eligible to become U.S. lawful permanent residents,” said Enriquez.
“This work is so important because we’re really working with young people who have come from the most difficult of circumstances. When young people quality for special immigration status, they’ve been deprived of that parent-child connection: they’ve often had to parent themselves,” said Enriquez.
“They have shown a strength of character and resiliency that many of us will never have to exhibit in our lives because we have been blessed to have a family that cares for us,” Enriquez said of his team’s clients. “We really believe that young immigrants are the future of our communities and of our country, and if we can have a small part in helping make that future better then it’s an honor and a privilege to do so. To read the complete article, please click here