Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 12-1-2014




Columbia Human Rights Law Review




This article looks at the legal and practical challenges arising out of a particular immigration protection for abandoned, abused, and neglected child migrants called “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status” (SIJS). This benefit, which is a pathway to legal permanent residence and citizenship, is the only area within federal immigration law that requires a state court to take action in order for immigration authorities to consider an individual’s eligibility for relief. Using an original data set of roughly 12,000 SIJS applications from the Department of Homeland Security in June 2013, this article describes trends over time and by state regarding the number of SIJS applicants. After considering population differences, the article examines application disparities among states and identify a subset of seven particularly high- and low-application states, as well as states that have had significant increases in the number of applications. The article discusses how factors such as states’ family laws, child welfare policies, and specialized legal resources may affect the ability of potential SIJS applicants to access protection. Ultimately, this article proposes a variety of reforms that seek to improve the law: increasing the screening of potentially eligible children, ensuring that these children have access to counsel, and creating a federal safeguard to address disparities created by differences in states’ laws.

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