Mi casa es tu casa – My house is your house. This is the courtesy we extend to guess in our home (whether family or a first-time visitor). At least this was a strong Guyanese valuable instilled in me as a child and observed while living in the United States of America my entire life. Americans are thought to be the most welcoming and laid back people in the world.
So, why all the political rhetoric about deporting the thousands of unaccompanied illegal children immigration officials stated that have recently flooded the southern U.S. border. A long-standing principle of the U.S. Government has been to demonstrate global leadership by providing humanitarian options to immigrants who are in the most vulnerable and desperate of situations. One such immigrant group is children who find themselves in this country without parental care due to abuse, neglect, abandonment or another similar situation.
In the form of Special Immigrant Juvenile (“SIJ”) status, the U.S. immigration law provides a method for abused, abandoned or neglected children without legal immigration status to obtain permission to remain lawfully in the United States.
Processing of unaccompanied minors typically progresses, as follows: within 72 hours of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detaining unaccompanied foreign children, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement places them in federally-staffed facilities with varying levels of security and services. The children are given “Know Your Rights” presentations, provided by non-profit organizations and pro bono attorneys, wherein they learn about a variety of immigration benefits. Those children who appear to meet no criteria for a benefit may elect “Voluntary Departure” and return to their country of origin.
However, the SIJ provisions allow qualifying foreign children to obtain relief from removal, and other important immigration benefits, such as employment authorization. Qualifying foreign children may self-petition for SIJ status by filing Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. SIJ petitioners may also apply concurrently to remain permanently in the United States by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Just think about the sense of urgency and difficult reality that these children are facing – leaving their family and home to enter a country where they know no one, don’t speak the language and don’t have a home. Where is the American hospitality and humanitarian arm?