The Trump administration has reversed its position on Special Immigrant Juvenile status, which lets immigrants under the age of 21 who are abused or neglected by a parent get green cards. Now, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services seems to be treating many New York applicants who were over the age of 18 but under 21 when they applied for a green card as though they no longer qualify.
Immigration advocates suspect that Trump’s opportunistic fearmongering around the MS-13 gang prompted this policy reversal. As Wendy Young of Kids In Need of Defense told the New York Times, the Trump admin sees these protections as “loopholes” and has distorted the intention behind the policy: “Under this administration, everybody is presenting a fraudulent claim, rather than, ‘Why is this child here and do they need protection?’”
According to The Legal Aid Society of New York, 81 applicants have been denied by USCIS, and more than 1,000 people in the state of New York could be affected.
The administration’s reinterpretation of the policy is a semantic stew; the Times breaks down how this works:
To obtain [Special Immigrant Juvenile status], applicants must first have a ruling from their state’s juvenile court, finding that they have been abused, abandoned or neglected. A judge must also declare the young person dependent on the court, or appoint a caretaker. In the second part of the process, the applicant submits the judge’s order to the immigration agency.
The Trump administration seems to be narrowly reinterpreting the law, saying that in cases where applicants are over 18, they no longer qualify, because the state court’s authority ends at that age. According to its reasoning in one denial letter provided to The Times, “once a person attains the age of 18, the family courts lack jurisdiction over the person’s custody.
But as the Times notes, applicants older than 18 can still be appointed guardians. Under Trump, though, USCIS no longer views this as the same thing as custody, even though state law holds that the two roles have “equal rights and responsibilities.”
These technicalities suddenly leave hundreds of abuse victims more vulnerable, on top of the stressors of America’s escalating aggression against immigrants. It’s more cruelty from an already cruel administration, which was, of course, the entire point.
Read more at the New York Times.