Earlier this year, Steeg Law represented a minor child seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (“SIJS”) in Orleans Parish Juvenile Court through the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans’ (“CCANO”) Unaccompanied Children’s Project. The project pairs local attorneys with unaccompanied minors seeking lawful immigration status in the United States. Paralegal Lizette Castillo assisted Zak with the case.
SIJS is a pathway for vulnerable immigrant children to obtain lawful status when they cannot be reunified with one of their parents in their home country due to abuse, neglect or abandonment, and it is not in their best interest to return to their home countries. The federal government created SIJS to allow children without lawful immigration status to remain in the United States legally and receive protection from the state. Once a child successfully obtains SIJS, he is eligible to apply for lawful permanent residency or a green card.
Before a child can obtain SIJS from the federal government though, he must first appear in state court. The state court must find that the child’s reunification with his parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and that it is not in the child’s best interest to return to his home country.
Petition for Finding of Eligibility for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
Steeg Law’s client—an eleven-year old boy from Central America abandoned by his father—escaped the extreme gang violence and poverty of his home country and entered the United States seeking to be reunited with his mother, a New Orleans resident. Detained at the U.S. border, the child was taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security and released into the custody of his mother while awaiting potential deportation by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”).
After several months of work, Steeg Law filed a Petition for Finding of Eligibility for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status in Orleans Parish Juvenile Court and represented the minor child in court. The firm successfully argued that his client’s reunification with his father in Central America was not possible due to abandonment, and that it was not in his best interests to return home due to his country’s widespread poverty and violence. With a judgment from the state court, the minor child—with assistance from CCANO immigration attorneys—will now be able to apply to the USCIS for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and lawful permanent residency.
Steeg Law’s Work in the Community
Founding Partner, Moise S. Steeg, Jr., was a respected leader in the New Orleans community, receiving many major civic honors, including the Mayor’s Award for Lifetime Services to the Arts in the Community and the New Orleans Times-Picayune Loving Cup Man of the Year Award. Our attorneys and entire staff continue to follow his lead, providing a variety of pro bono legal counsel, serving on the Boards of civic and non-profit organizations, and volunteering in the community.
If you are interested in assisting CCANO with the Unaccompanied Children’s Project or if you are interested in any of CCANO’s other pro bono projects, please contact Amber Gilbert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.310.6946.