"Danny's" mother (his name has been changed for purposes of confidentiality) brought him to the United States when he was 6 years old. Danny was diagnosed with Marfan's Syndrome, a genetic disorder of the connective tissue, soon after his arrival. This condition had affected Danny's heart and spinal cord and caused him to become severely malnourished and to require highly specialized medical treatment and multiple surgeries. Because Danny's mother did not have the capacity to care for him in his delicate physical state, Child Protective Services got involved and Danny was removed from her care at the age of ten.
Danny was able to be placed in the foster home of a retired nurse, who was familiar with his condition and could provide the care and support that he needed both physically and emotionally. However, Danny was present in the United States illegally. Unless that changed, he would always have to live in fear of deportation at any time. While Danny was able to receive certain benefits as a foster child, once he became an adult and was released from the dependency system he would no longer be eligible for subsidized health care. In addition, he would not have access to student loans or be able to obtain authorization to work in the United States. Danny was okay for the moment, but his future was looking grim.
Fortunately, Danny's juvenile dependency attorney recognized that he may be eligible for an immigration benefit called Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. He contacted Hurtubise Weber Law to request that we take Danny's case on a pro bono basis.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) was created so that a certain class of vulnerable young people can have a chance at a real life in the United States - with the option of going to school, working, and taking advantage of our social safety net, without fear of deportation. SIJS is an excellent option for young people because it leads to lawful permanent residency (a green card) and eventually citizenship.
To be eligible for SIJS, you must be under 21 years old and unmarried. A state court must have declared you a dependent of the state (this usually occurs in juvenile or family court, and is the case for foster children) and found (1) that it is not in your best interests to return to your home country and (2) that you can not be reunited with a parent due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a similar reason.
Danny was a prime SIJS candidate - he met all of the criteria and had an extremely sympathetic story due to his illness. We were able to submit his application materials, and a few months later, Danny received his green card! In 5 years, he will be able to apply for citizenship.
Danny is just one of many foster children we are committed to helping through our pro bono legal assistance. In the past few months we have obtained lawful permanent residency (green cards) for two foster children, and are currently in the process of assisting two more.