WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) wrote U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ur M. Jaddou, urging the expeditious processing of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) petitions and increased transparency for applicants with pending cases. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is intended to grant permanent residence and work permits to at-risk immigrant children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected by a parent or guardian. Though federal law mandates USCIS adjudicate SIJS petitions within 180 days, this deadline is rarely met, leaving applicants waiting months or even years for much-needed relief.
“Such delays not only violate the statute, but also create uncertainty and anxiety for already traumatized youth, delay stability and permanency, and heighten vulnerability to unwarranted and harmful immigration enforcement action now and in the future,” wrote the lawmakers. “Meanwhile, the announcement that USCIS will consider deferred action for SIJS recipients makes timely adjudication of SIJS petitions all the more imperative. Delays in SIJS petition processing mean delays in consideration for deferred action and the vital safeguards it would afford.”
“It has never been more important for USCIS to adjudicate Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions within the congressionally mandated timeframe. Delayed processing of these cases means delayed safety and security for abused, abandoned, and neglected youth. Consistently timely and fair decisions will help build upon the agency’s recent laudable advances in strengthening protections for these vulnerable children,” said Jennifer Podkul, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND).
Rep. Raskin’s letter recounts a case in which a brother and sister submitted their respective paperwork to USCIS on the same day, based on a shared experience of neglect by their parents. While USCIS approved the sister’s petition, her brother still awaits a decision nearly a year later. Despite multiple attempts to reach USCIS, his attorneys have not been successful—an experience not uncommon for the thousands of immigrant children seeking special immigrant juvenile status.
Joining Rep. Raskin’s letter and efforts to fulfill the SIJS program’s mission to protect vulnerable immigrant youth are 27 congressional colleagues: Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Judy Chu (CA-27), Yvette D. Clark (NY-09), Luis Correa (CA-46), Jason Crow (CO-06), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Adam Smith (WA-09), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Juan Vargas (CA-51) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12).
Organizations supporting Rep. Raskin’s letter include The Door’s Legal Services Center, End SIJS Backlog Coalition, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), The Legal Aid Society and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.