California Supreme Court Provides Direction to State Courts Issuing SIJS Predicate Orders

Manatt is pleased with the California Supreme Court’s opinion in Guardianship of S.H.R., which clarified the standards that state courts must follow when ruling on requests to make predicate findings needed for an immigrant child’s petition to the federal government for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status. 

The California Supreme Court overturned a state trial court that refused to issue the predicate SIJS findings for an immigrant child who had shown it was not viable for him to reunify with his parents. The opinion provided clarification and direction that will assist trial courts and appellate courts in California, as well as state courts nationally, in carrying out their congressionally assigned role of making predicate factual findings that immigrant children need in order to apply to the federal government for SIJ status.  

On March 21, 2022, Manatt team led by Gregory Pimstone and including Joanna McCallum, Sirena Castillo, Jessamyn Vedro, Thomas Worger and Kyla Wyatt filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the State of California on behalf of nonprofit organization National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project (NIWAP) in Guardianship of S.H.R. The team’s brief, in support of the immigrant child seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status, emphasizes the importance of giving clear guidance to state juvenile courts that have been tasked by Congress with a limited factfinding role in the process for determining a child’s eligibility for humanitarian relief as a SIJ. 

According to the amicus brief, “SIJ status is a special immigration protection that Congress enacted in 1990 to ‘provide humanitarian protection for abused, neglected, or abandoned child immigrants’ who are in the United States without lawful status.” The brief explains that the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District’s decision in S.H.R created a conflict in California law by applying an unduly burdensome standard of proof and standard of review, which is in conflict with the SIJ statute, legislative history, federal immigration regulations and policies, as well as case law from California and other jurisdictions. The brief explains that the published and precedential decision in S.H.R. will lead to confusion in juvenile courts surrounding the applicable standards, and will ultimately be harmful to children seeking SIJ protection. 

Read Manatt’s complete amicus brief here



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