Young Immigrants Escaping Abuse Face Green Card Denials From U.S. Government

By Shani Saxon Jan 03, 2019

Things just got a lot harder for some young immigrants escaping abuse in their home countries and seeking a fresh start in the United States. According to ABC News, the Trump administration is denying green card applications for people they now consider too old for protection. A government program established in 1990 called Green Card Based on Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Classification gives "certain children who have been subject to state juvenile court proceedings related to abuse, neglect, abandonment or a similar basis under state law the ability to seek lawful permanent residence in the United States." Per ABC, those with SIJ status can seek a "court-appointed guardian and a green card to stay in the country."

According to SIJ rules, applicants must file paperwork before they turn 21 to be eligible. However, ABC reports that the current administration has decided some applicants are too old to apply once they turn 18. Over the past year, denials have poured in from "New York, Texas and California and additional questions of applicants in New Jersey."

Mary Tanagho Ross, an appellate staff attorney at ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project, says, "This administration is literally going after some of the most vulnerable people trying to seek relief." Her organization has filed lawsuits in New York and California on behalf of the hundreds of young people who could be affected by this change. 

This is happening days after a judge ruled against the Trump administration’s policy of denying asylum for survivors of domestic and gang violence. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan determined those policies to be "arbitrary, capricious and in violation of the immigration law."

ABC reports more than 50,000 young people have earned SIJ status since 2010. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has reportedly approved most of those applications.