New York, New York — In a decision that can be considered a victory for young non-citizens who are seeking protected immigration status, United States District Judge John Koeltl of the Southern District of New York ruled that the rights of several young immigrants were violated when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied them Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Judge Koeltl stated that only Congress, and not immigration authorities, can change the law. Kerry Bretz, Partner, Bretz & Coven, LLP, says that the decision directly and positively affects the hundreds of immigrant minors who have had their SIJS applications denied, many of whom have appeals pending.
Last year, USCIS began to systematically deny SIJS, which was created for non-citizen minors who had been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent to obtain a green card. Without proper notification, USCIS sought to deny SIJS to any young non-citizen between the ages 18 and 21. Five young adults who were denied SIJS brought a class action lawsuit to challenge the policy change.
On March 15, 2019, Judge Koeltl granted summary judgment to the class of plaintiffs, all of whom were determined by New York family courts to have been abused or neglected by their parents and were denied SIJS by USCIS.
In his decision, Judge Koeltl stated that, despite claims to the contrary, USCIS acted out of compliance with federal immigration law by not allowing the state courts to issue necessary findings for minor non-citizens between 18 and 21 years of age, which would enable them to obtain protected immigration status. He further stated, “If the immigration laws are to be changed in that way, the change must come from Congress and not from the immigration authorities.”
“This decision provides a positive outlook to young non-citizens who are seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and had their initial applications denied,” says Mr. Bretz. “Many of our clients, located in Queens and throughout the New York City area, have sought to appeal their SIJS denials. With this decision, the outlook on their appeals remains positive.”
For more information, call (212) 267-2555 or visit Bretz & Coven, LLP.