The Children and Youth Law Clinic filed amicus curiae brief last week in a Juvenile Court case involving two children from El Salvador who had petitioned the court to be adjudicated dependent based on past abuse and neglect by their father, and also asked the court to declare them eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status(SIJS).
The brief was submitted on behalf of the Clinic and other groups including Americans for Immigrant Justice, Florida's Children First, Florida Equal Justice Center, and private attorney Alan Mishael, JD '81. It was an effort to broadly educate the court about the purpose of initiating private dependency proceedings on behalf of immigrant children, and the dependency court's role in adjudicating an immigrant child dependent and declaring the child eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.
The brief was filed in response to the presiding judge's invitation for "charitable organizations, legal aid organizations, or private counsel involved in these cases" to address questions posed by the Court in connection with this case.
"We framed our brief as a broad policy and legal overview of the issues surrounding immigrant children who appear in state dependency courts," explained Professor Bernard Perlmutter, director of the Children & Youth Law Clinic.
Accordingly, the brief provided general background about the immigrant children who file these petitions, where they come from, and why they seek this relief. It also included a historical and policy overview of the federal SIJS legislation and a summary of the state of the current law and the roles of different federal agencies such as the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), and how their responsibilities bear on some of the Court's concerns in this case.
Also included was an analysis of the purposes of the SIJS law, and the processes contemplated by it in providing a means for undocumented immigrant children who are victims of abuse, abandonment or neglect to seek SIJS. There was moreover an explanation of the state court's vital role in adjudicating children dependent so that they may regularize their immigration status; and the court's jurisdiction over exterritorial conduct.
The Children and Youth Law Clinic has represented dozens of undocumented immigrant children in dependency court proceedings in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit since it was established in 1996. The clinic also published a manual on SIJS in 2007, and has delivered numerous trainings on the topic at conferences sponsored by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the National Association of Counsel for Children, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and at several annual conferences held throughout the U.S.
Additionally, the Children & Youth Law Clinic assisted Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center in drafting an amendment to Florida Statute Chapter 39 clarifying the roles of the Department of Children and Families, private foster care agencies, and the dependency court with regard to immigrant children seeking SIJ status. The Clinic appeared as amicus curiae in a New Hampshire Supreme Court case, In re Juvenile 2002-098, 813 A.2d 1197 (N.H. 2002), involving state court jurisdiction over a nonresident foreign child's right to obtain SIJS.