After more than a year of negotiations, the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest has secured approval of a settlement in W.A.O. v. Jaddou. Filed in 2019 on behalf of a class of more than 700 young immigrants, the case challenged the government’s illegal policy of disqualifying 18- to 21-year-olds from Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). 

SIJS is a form of immigration relief for children who, according to a state family court, cannot be safely reunified with one or both parents because of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or something similar. If the state court finds that it would not be in the best interest of the child to be returned to their home country, the child may apply to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for SIJS and then lawful permanent residency.

Under the terms of the settlement, USCIS will not enforce or rely on the challenged policy to delay, question, deny, or revoke the SIJS petitions of older youth. The government will work with class members who are in deportation proceedings to ensure that they have a fair chance at avoiding deportation while they wait for their green cards after having been granted SIJS, and will pay more than $500,000 in attorney’s fees, which Lowenstein will donate to nonprofit organizations.

Catherine Weiss, partner and Chair of the Center, says, “I am pleased that the government has removed unlawful barriers to Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for older youth. These young people can now secure the immigration protection they were always entitled to as they continue down the path toward achieving permanent residency.”

Natalie J. Kraner, Craig Dashiell, Claudia Lorenzo, Tracy F. Buffer, and Valerie Taboada also worked to bring this case to a successful conclusion on behalf of the plaintiffs.

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