State Advisory Council Co-Chaired by Prof. Theo Liebmann Publishes Advisory Memo on New USCIS Practice to Reject SIJS Applications

Theo Liebmann

The New York State Office of Court Administration’s Advisory Council on Immigration Issues in Family Court, co-chaired by Professor Theo Liebmann, director of Hofstra Law’s Youth Advocacy Clinic, and Judge Ruben Martino, has issued an Advisory Memorandum regarding the new practice of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reject certain types of applications for humanitarian relief by abused and neglected minors that previously had been granted.

The form of relief — Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) — is designed to provide a pathway to a green card for minors up to age 21 if they cannot reunify with one or both parents due to abuse, neglect, abandonment or a similar basis under state law, and if it is not in their best interests to return to their country of origin. To qualify for the relief, the immigrant child must provide a copy of an order from a family court making certain findings.

The memorandum responds to several new practices of USCIS which have been implemented without any change in regulation, statute or official policy since President Trump took office, including rejecting the New York Family Court’s jurisdiction over minors up to age 21, and rejecting the Family Court’s authority to make determinations regarding reunification of minors with parents.

The memorandum has been circulated statewide to family court judges and attorneys for children.