Luminus in Action – Advocating for Youth

Immigrant youth in the United States face unique challenges, often navigating life without parental support and making perilous journeys to the country alone. These circumstances demand special consideration, particularly in accessing essential services like education, typically requiring parental involvement. Recognizing these hardships, American immigration laws, as outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), offer a safeguard known as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).

When a young person finds themselves without the parental support of one or both parents, state laws often interpret this as abandonment or neglect, empowering courts to place them in the care of responsible adults, whether it is the good parent, relatives, or guardians. This action can be prompted by various factors, including abuse or parental absence. Under the INA, if a court grants custody to a responsible adult due to neglect, abandonment, or abuse, the youth may be eligible for SIJS, offering protection from deportation and a pathway to permanent residency in the United States.

However, before applying for SIJS, the court must determine that returning to the youth’s country of origin and reuniting with their parents would not be in their best interest due to the aforementioned circumstances. Once this determination is made and custody is awarded, the young person can pursue SIJS status.

SIJS provides crucial, permanent protection for eligible youth, but a significant backlog in status adjustment leaves over 100,000 vulnerable individuals in limbo, basically arresting their development to make crucial choices as they grow, according to the National Immigration Project. Addressing this backlog necessitates congressional action, especially considering the continuous influx of unaccompanied minors into the United States, as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To advocate for these vulnerable youth, individuals can support initiatives like the coalition organized by the National Immigration Project and urge their congressional representatives to prioritize action on this issue.

Luminus actively participates in the Coalition to End the SIJS Backlog, a project program under the National Immigration Project, initiated in February 2021 and now comprising over 150 organizations nationwide, alongside impacted youth. Focused on advocating for immigrant children affected by visa limitations, the coalition amplifies the voices of those directly impacted, emphasizing the urgent need to eliminate the backlog. Through collaboration, Luminus and End the SIJS Backlog coalition’s partners engage in extensive advocacy efforts, urging Congress, administrative bodies, and the public to provide permanent legal protection for immigrant children who have suffered abuse, abandonment, or neglect.

Read the Coalition’s report.