On June 7, Mintz filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) alleging that USCIS wrongfully denied plaintiffs–two young adults from Ecuador and Belize–Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status. This is the latest in a string of lawsuits directed at USCIS for denying SIJ petitions submitted by children over the age of 18 who are eligible for these protections under the law.
Congress created the SIJ classification to allow unmarried children under the age of 21 who have suffered abuse, abandonment, or neglect to qualify for lawful permanent residency in the United States.
The plaintiffs, identified in court papers by the pseudonyms Macy Doe and Thomas Doe, are SIJ-eligible children residing in the state of Massachusetts. Both children have survived harm and trauma in their home countries, and before they turned 21, the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court made all of the required findings for these children to have SIJ status and remain in the United States.
The lawsuit alleges that USCIS unlawfully and unconstitutionally denied the plaintiffs’ SIJ petitions by distorting applicable state law, ignoring the state courts’ findings and supporting evidence, and adding additional requirements for SIJ eligibility beyond what the law requires.
“USCIS’s unlawful denials of our clients’ SIJ petitions have disrupted their entire lives. Macy and Thomas should be able to live free from the hardships they survived and without the constant threat of deportation.” said Emily Kanstroom Musgrave, Member and Co-Chair of the firm’s Appellate Practice Group.
“This case is about children who were abused and neglected and who really deserve to get this immigration status. They meet all the standards, and would be at great risk if they are forced to return," said Susan Finegan, Member and Chair of Mintz’s pro bono committee in an article published by Law360.
The lawsuit was filed together with the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project, a Boston-based nonprofit organization that provides free immigration services to indigent asylum seekers and detained immigrants, assuring fairness and access to justice.
The Mintz pro bono team representing the plaintiffs in this case includes Members Susan Finegan and Emily Kanstroom Musgrave, and Associates Mathilda S. McGee-Tubb, Courtney Herndon and Joel Nolette.
For more information about Mintz, please visit www.mintz.com.