The California Supreme Court has ordered publication of a Court of Appeal decision that will help youth establish eligibility for Special immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). The decision clarifies that eligible youth cannot be denied necessary state court findings merely because they are wards of the court as a result of a delinquency proceeding. At the request of the Court of Appeal, the Youth Law Center participated as amicus curiae in the case, along with Public Counsel Law Center; Legal Services for Children; Immigrant Legal Resource Center; University of California, Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic; and Southwestern Law School Immigrant Law Clinic. The Office of Immigration Litigation of the United States Department of Justice Civil Division also filed an amicus brief at the request of the Court. Publication of the decision means that it can be cited as precedent for other cases.
To qualify for SIJ status, the minor must have, among other things, “been declared dependent on a juvenile court located in the United States or [be one] whom such a court has legally committed to, or placed under the custody of, an agency or department of a State, or an individual or entity appointed by a State or juvenile court located in the United States . . . .” (8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J)(i).) In this case the Superior Court refused to make the necessary findings because the youth had been adjudicated a ward of the court pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 602. The Court of Appeal reversed the Superior Court on October 16, 2013, and the California Supreme Court ordered publication of the Court of Appeal decision on January 29, 2014.