Foster migrants get green card break
Foreign-born children in foster care may find it easier to qualify for green cards as a result of a recent decision by federal immigration authorities.
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
Posted on Fri, Sep. 07, 2007
An 18-year-old Nicaraguan detained by immigration authorities when he was a minor for being in the country without papers has blazed a new legal trail that may benefit other undocumented, unaccompanied children facing deportation.
Miami-based Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center scored a victory when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services appeals office in Washington recently reversed a Miami district office ruling denying special immigrant juvenile status to the Nicaraguan.
The case has the potential of enabling many unaccompanied migrant children in similar circumstances to stay in the United States — but advocates were not sure how many cases there may be in Florida.
Deborah Lee, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center attorney who handled the Nicaraguan's case, said there may be ''dozens'' of cases in Florida and that there may be 500 or 600 similar cases in the nation per year.
Lee declined to identify the Nicaraguan or provide details because the case was still pending. The ruling only identifies the Nicaraguan by his last name: Prez Quintanilla.
Ana Santiago, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman in Miami, did not address the specific case, but said: “The adjudication of special immigrants is made in conformance with laws and regulations and in concurrence with our policy and procedures.''
The Nicaraguan was detained April 25, 2003, and ordered to appear in immigration court, but instead of being detained as is usual in the case of unaccompanied migrant children with pending cases, he was released to a relative who abused him. That's why the Nicaraguan ended up in foster care and the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
On Dec. 19, 2005, when he was 17, the court ruled he was ''dependent'' due to ''abuse, neglect or abandonment by the parents,'' was eligible for long-term foster care beyond his 18th birthday, and that it was in his best interest not to be deported to Nicaragua.
He applied for special status, which, if granted, would have made him eligible for a green card.
But the Miami district office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied his request.