The Florida Supreme Court ruled recently that juvenile courts cannot reject the dependency petitions filed on behalf of immigrant children without an evidentiary hearing. Professors Bernard Perlmutter and Rebecca Sharpless wrote amicus briefs in the case, brought by a Guatemalan teenager who had entered the United States without a visa and was seeking permanent residency by securing special immigrant juvenile status.
Professor Bernard Perlmutter
Professor Rebecca Sharpless
Under Florida law, all children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected may be declared dependent on the court. Immigrant children who are dependent qualify for special immigrant juvenile status. Florida law recognizes that obtaining lawful immigration status is a key component of helping abused, abandoned, or neglected children achieve stability in their lives.
Miami-Dade County judges, in particular, have seen a spike in the numbers of dependency petitions from abused, abandoned, or neglected immigrant children seeking U.S. residency status. According to Perlmutter, in recent years, the courts have unlawfully denied hundreds of such requests.
"I welcome the opinion," Perlmutter, director of Miami Law's Children & Youth Law Clinic, said in an interview with the Daily Business Review. "I think the law should apply equally whether this is an immigrant child or a U.S. citizen child, and we have a very strong statutory basis for these cases to go forward and not to be dismissed before facts can be presented."
Sharpless, director of Miami Law’s Immigration Clinic added, “This opinion sends a strong message to judges to apply the law as written and to not succumb to the anti-immigrant politics of the day.”