Young people in foster care face untold barriers in their journey toward security and independence. For many hundreds of children in care these barriers to success are exacerbated dramatically by the fact that they are without legal immigration status in the United States. The daunting reality is that a young person in foster care who is undocumented faces potential deportation at any time. For these children, being deported to a country where they are completely disconnected from any family or caring adults, may not speak the language and are unfamiliar with the culture is a terrifying prospect; Lawful Permanent Residency (a “green card”) is critical for their safety and wellbeing.
To address this problem, our Immigration Rights Project utilizes the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) Statute, a special provision in the Immigration and Naturalization Act, to obtain lawful permanent residence for eligible undocumented clients. Through SIJS, a child may apply for a green card if the Family Court makes special findings, including that the child cannot reunify with one or both parents due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. SIJS may also be available to children who are not in foster care, including children who are the subject of guardianship, custody, and adoption proceedings.
The project also includes an outreach component, designed to provide young people in foster care with crucial information about SIJS, and how to begin the process. Because the laws affecting SIJS are frequently updated, LFC clients with immigration questions meet frequently with their LFC attorney and social worker to discuss their individual situation.
Enabling our clients to stay in the U.S. legally allows them to continue their education, become eligible for employment and embark on a promising future in the country that is their home.