Some big news came out from the Nebraska Supreme Court last week that we hope leads to more young Nebraskans staying in safe and permanent family situations.
In the case In re Guardianship of Carlos D. the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that county courts can decide whether or not young immigrant Nebraskans are eligible to apply for what’s known as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a legal status which lets children under the age of 21 who have been abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both parents obtain lawful permanent residence in the U.S.
Once a youth applies for SIJS, their application is decided upon by a federal agency, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. However, before a youth applies for status, a court must find that the child has been abused, abandoned, or neglected.
Before this ruling, some county courts had declined to decide whether or not young people could apply for SIJS, instead deferring to dedicated juvenile courts to make the necessary findings even when there is a family willing to adopt the child or enter into a guardianship arrangement for them.
A new Nebraska state law passed this year, LB 670, which was cited by the Supreme Court in its decision, contained a provision introduced by State Sen. Tony Vargas that gives added clarity in saying that local courts have the authority to allow young people to apply for SIJS. We believe this will ensure that young persons will not be forced to unnecessarily enter foster care in order to seek these findings.
Why is this important?
If a young person is deemed eligible for SIJS, that means they are able to do many of the same things their same-aged peers do, like seek employment. This better ensures young people are able to safely and effectively grow into a healthy adulthood.
Appleseed has worked with other advocate partners for the last several years to strengthen the SIJS process. In this case, we worked with the Immigrant Legal Center, Lincoln attorney David Chipman, national partners, and the legal clinic at the University of Nebraska to advocate for youth needing these protections.
We’re also involved in other court cases to make sure young Nebraskans who age out of foster care in a guardianship or who have Special Immigrant Juvenile Status can get life-saving health care services that every young Nebraskan needs to have their best chances of becoming productive and healthy members of our communities as adults.