The rise in the number of children coming from Central
America seeking protection from violence was met, in May, by a temporary shut-off in their ability to advance their cases to a conclusion. Children who had completed every step of the process to obtain protection, including multiple appearances in Family Court and Immigration Court, were told that their final applications to Homeland Security for permanent residence could not go forward because too many children had already applied.
This did not just mean that the date that they would get their “Green Card” on would be delayed. It also meant that while they waited, for months or years, they would be in an uncertain status and would not be allowed to work.
At CARECEN we represent 202 of these children. During the ten days immediately preceding the cut-off in May, we filed more than 30 applications for Adjustment of Status to Permanent Residence after satisfying both Immigration and Family Court judges that the children had good character and that they would be harmed if they were deported. Since then, we have finished the court work on several dozen additional cases, but we have not been able to move the children’s cases forward to completion because of this cut-off.
For the quarter of my organization’s clients who are working age teens, this has been a particular problem. They faced the possibility of not being able to work after school or in the summers.
This month we got good news. The Department of Homeland Security, without fanfare or explanation, began accepting the Adjustment of Status applications for the children again. Although it will still take many months for “Green Cards” to be issued, at least in the meantime the young people will be eligible to work.
Strong advocacy by the network of legal organizations representing the children was key to this victory.