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Eligible Young Immigrants Denied Asylum Because of Age

hands-1150073_640-300x200The Trump administration has reportedly been rejecting lawful residence status applications to a startling number of immigrant youth, many of whom have left their home countries to flee abusive environments, because the government believes they are too old.

Young immigrants escaping abuse, abandonment, or neglect by a parent are legally allowed to seek a court-appointed guardian and green card to stay in the U.S., as provided by an immigration program that has been in effect since 1990. While the program clearly states that applicants must file paperwork before they reach the age of 21, the Trump administration insists that applicants beyond 18 are too old to qualify. As such, the government saw it fit to send out denial notices throughout the past year to applicants in California, New York, Texas, and New Jersey.

Immigrant rights advocates have since filed lawsuits against the government in courts in New York and California, arguing about the impact such a policy implementation would have on disenfranchised immigrant youth.

Mary Tanagho Ross, an appellate staff attorney at Public counsel’s immigrant rights project in Los Angeles, slammed the Trump administration’s further victimization of “the most vulnerable people trying to seek relief.”

As Attorney General under the Trump administration, Jeff Sessions targeted Central American children fleeing gang and domestic violence, making it more difficult for them to seek asylum despite their circumstances. While a federal court blocked the implementation of his proposed instructions, the U.S. government has continued to delay the release of young immigrants to their family members already in the country.

More immigrant youth have been applying to the program in recent years; federal data shows that the number of applications increasing three-fold between the 2014 and 2017 fiscal years. Applications denials, however, have also increased during this period—over 2,000 applications were rejected in the last two fiscal years alone.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has yet to publish a response to the pending litigation but promised to continue “to ensure that children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected receive the humanitarian benefits they are eligible for.”

Beth Krause, supervising attorney of the immigrant youth project at Legal Aid in New York, points out that USCIS lacks the authority to defy state law, particularly New York’s policy of allowing courts to issue guardianship orders to young immigrants. She adds that the agency, tasked to oversee all matters related to immigration, arbitrarily changed its policy simply because doesn’t comport with the federal statute, referring to the provision that allows immigrants until age 21 to apply for the program. Krause represents the young immigrants in the New York filing.

If you would like to learn more about this latest development in U.S. immigration policy, or have a loved one seeking assistance with an asylum case, don’t hesitate to sit down for a consultation with the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to talk to immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.