ABA Policy Resolution to Protect SIJS Youth

CILA is a project of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Commission on Immigration (COI). The Commission submitted a policy resolution to the ABA House of Delegates on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Overall, the resolution “[u]rges Congress and the Administration to enact laws and adopt policies to protect Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) youth, including youth of color, through the years-long adjudication process of the SIJS petition and SIJS-based adjustment of status application to lawful permanent residence.” The ABA House of Delegates adopted the resolution at the recent February 2024 Midyear Meeting. CILA’s Director, Dalia Castillo-Granados, worked with the Commission to draft the policy and pursue this effort.

This resolution builds on and expands opportunities for policy advocacy efforts for the ABA. The ABA previously urged for protection for SIJS youth when passing a policy resolution in 2021, including advocating USCIS to grant deferred action for SIJ beneficiaries (which has since occurred), amongst other recommended changes. Overall, with this new policy resolution, the ABA can now encourage policy changes related to:

  • Eliminating the consent function in the SIJS statue and urging policy to ensure that individual adjudicators do not use the consent function in a way that causes unwarranted disparate impact or treatment of certain children’s SIJS petitions;
  • Ensuring protection from removal, access to employment authorization, and access to federal public benefits while SIJS youth wait for the opportunity to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident;
  • Amending the SIJS statute and issuing policy to eliminate any unnecessary barriers to adjustment of status, including by removing the discretionary component to adjustment, allowing the child’s case to be initially heard first before a non-adversarial adjudicator even if the child is in removal proceedings, limiting the grounds of inadmissibility that disqualify SIJS youth from adjustment of status, and expanding the waiver of inadmissibility grounds for SIJS to include all grounds of inadmissibility; and
  • Requiring that adjudicators of SIJS petitions and SIJS-based adjustment of status applications receive training on adjudicating cases in a trauma informed, non-discriminatory, and holistic manner.

The recommendations are informed by a law review article authored by Dalia Castillo-Granados, Rachel Davidson, Laila Hlass, and Rebecca Scholtz titled, “The Racial Justice Imperative to Reimagine Immigrant Children’s Rights: Special Immigrant Juveniles as a Case Study” published in 2022.

The ABA Journal covered the update in the article, “Extra protections are needed for youths navigating immigration system, ABA House says.”

To learn more about ABA policy efforts, read CILA’s blog post, “CILA Highlights ABA Policy Efforts,” and to learn more about the SIJS backlog, review more information in CILA’s blog post on the End SIJS Backlog Coalition’s report.