Time Magazine recently reported on the years-long backlog of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) cases, as highlighted in Any Day They Could Deport Me, a recent report resulting from a collaborative research project conducted by The End SIJS Backlog Coalition, The Door and Tulane Professor Laila Hlass.
SIJS is a humanitarian protection designed to provide permanent legal protections to immigrant children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by their parent(s). SIJ status allows a child to apply for a green card. However, because the SIJS green card application process is categorized as “employment-based” the number of available green cards is capped by country leading to years’ long backlog.
While waiting for an available green card, young people are unable to work legally or receive federal financial aid for college. Moreover, young people must live in constant fear of being detained and deported.
As Time reports:
According to a trove of new USCIS data that has never been publicly available, tens of thousands of vulnerable young people, like Ariel, have been officially granted SIJS, but are being forced to wait up to five years before actually receiving their green cards—a period during which they are at extreme risk of homelessness, exploitation, and deportation, and often unable to access basic needs, like health care.
The dataset, which includes some 140,000 petitions, was obtained by The Door, a nonprofit youth advocacy organization, the End SIJS Backlog Coalition and Tulane University law professor Laila Hlass as part of an ongoing lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It shows that the SIJS backlog began in 2016 and grew to nearly 64,000 by April 2020, mostly impacting children from Central American countries and Mexico. As of April 2021, more than 44,000 young people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico remain in the backlog.
Safe Passage Project continues to work with the End SIJS Backlog Coalition to highlight the backlog and its devastating impact on young people.