Catherine Weiss, partner and Chair of the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest, comments in Law360 on new guidance from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that will make it more difficult for young people to obtain special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS). Under the new guidance, USCIS imposes additional requirements on the contents of state court orders that are a necessary part of any SIJS application. When USCIS adjudicates a juvenile’s SIJS application, the agency relies on a state court order making certain child welfare findings, including that the juvenile has been subject to parental abuse, neglect, abandonment, or something similar. Under the new policy, USCIS requires the state court order to include specific citations to the child protection statutes under which the findings are made. Weiss says: “Every time a new requirement is imposed on the content of the state court order, it makes it harder for juveniles to apply for and get SIJS because the … order has to meet this increasingly high threshold set by the government.” She notes that these rules are part of a trend toward requiring more details in family court decisions: “That kind of requirement makes the state court orders more elaborate and creates the risk that it will take the lawyers who represent youth, the unrepresented youth, and the family courts a while to catch up and make sure that the state court orders meet the increasingly high standards set by the federal government.”

Weiss also welcomes USCIS’s official, nationwide abandonment of an earlier policy that had unlawfully disqualified many SIJS applicants who were between the ages of 18 and 21, but she notes that the shift will do nothing to help those who have already had their applications delayed, questioned, denied, or revoked under the now-defunct policy. (subscription required to access article)