The San Diego Union-Tribune reported recently on a pair of parallel immigrantion trends on the rise. As more and more immigrant children are arrested at the U.S. border, the number of minors granted legal immigrantion status under the Special Immigrant Juvenile program is also climbing.
The little-known program might soon undergo changes, however, as the House of Representatives considers tightening eligibility.
The rise in applications for green cards under the program has risen swiftly. In 2011, just 1,829 petitions were granted. By 2015, the number had surged to 8,739. Last year’s figure: 15,101.
immigrantion officials refer to the children eligible as unaccompanied minors; a group that has seen its numbers surge in attempts to cross the border. Children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have made their way to the U.S. border, hoping to escape the violence, political persecution and poverty of their home countries.
When they are arrested at the border, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department places the children with a parent or relative, if it can. Many immigrant minors can qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile status, but they must first convince a court that they are trying to escape abuse or neglect in their native lands and cannot safely return.
If the judge concurs, the children then file a petition with the federal government for an adjustment in their status. If granted, that allows them to stay in the U.S. and apply for permanent legal residence.
Clearly, it is not a simple process. It is one of many in the immigrantion system that often requires the assistance of an experienced attorney who understands the law, the procedures and the paperwork.