Manatt Files Amicus Brief in SIJ Case on Behalf of the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project

A Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP 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.

NIWAP has worked closely with Congress and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to draft legislation for the protection of abused immigrant women and children, helping to draft statutes that expand protections for immigrant children eligible for SIJ status and fully implement SIJ protections. Its work involves training state courts all over the country, with a key focus on helping judges understand that issuing the findings required for SIJ eligibility is in the best interest of an immigrant child any time the state court makes a custody, guardianship, dependency, placement or delinquency determination. 

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.

Manatt’s brief on behalf of NIWAP asks the Supreme Court to reverse the Court of Appeal’s decision and provide “clear and consistent rules for handling requests to make SIJ findings.” It explains that “[w]ithout guidance as to how to make the necessary factual findings in a way that aligns with the federal and state laws, there is a risk that state courts may misunderstand their role,” which can prevent a child from obtaining SIJ protection if the courts fail to make findings to which the child is entitled.

Read the full brief here.

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