Virginia Law Will Allow Immigrant Children to Obtain SIJS Legal Status
For the past 2 years immigrant children who had been abused and/or abandoned by one or both of their parents have been denied access to Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) if they were unfortunate enough to live in the state of Virginia. That however is about to change.
U.S. immigration law contains a provision that allows abused and/or abandoned children who have found their way into the United Stated legal status, commonly referred to as SIJS. Once the children obtain legal status, however, they are prohibited from petitioning for their parents or other family members to stay in the United States based on their own newly acquired legal status.
Accordingly, the ONLY individuals who benefit from this law are the abused or abandoned children - it cannot be abused by an adult or other family member to obtain legal status for themselves.
Two years ago the Virginia Court of Appeals issued a ruling in Canales v. Orellana, 67 Va. App. 759 (2017), that prevented children in Virginia from obtaining the documents required by immigration law to apply for SIJS - effectively barring the abused and abandoned immigrant children living in the state of Virginia from obtaining legal status and protection.
On Friday, February 22, 2019 the Virginia General Assembly passed SB 1758 and HB 2679, identical bills that starting July 1, 2019 will grant Virginia State Courts the ability to issue the documents necessary for Virginia children to qualify for SIJS.
This new law is a huge step toward protecting Virginia's immigrant children who have been the victims of abuse, neglect, and abandonment in their home countries.
UPDATE: Today, July 1, 2019, Virginia Code Section 16.1-241(A1) went into effect and become active law. Abused, neglected, and abandoned juvenile immigrants will now be able to use the Virginia State Courts to begin the process of obtaining legal status.