A Benevolent Law Abused

Racketeers use SIJS to make big money

By I.S. Saluja & The Indian Panorama Investigative Team

Number of Undocumented Children Who Cross U.S. Border Alone Has Tripled

(The Pew Charitable Trusts: May 9, 2013)

Each year, thousands of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) risk harrowing journeys and travel alone to seek refuge in the United States. These children come from all over the world for many reasons, including to escape persecution in their home countries, to reunify with family members and to look for a better life. In recent years, the U.S. government has had roughly 6,000-8,000 of these children in its care and custody each year. While these children may be as young as infants, most (approximately 70 percent) have been between the ages of 15 and 17. – Women’s Refugee Commission

(The Migrationist: August 8, 2013)

Hundreds of thousands of youth (under age 18) attempt to enter the U.S. every year. Some come with their families, others alone, either of their own will seeking jobs, protection and family reunification or they are smuggled into the country for sweatshop labor or sexual exploitation. The exact number of children who attempt to enter the country is unknown. In 2005, the U.S. granted legal permanent resident (LPR) status to 175,000 children under 14 years of age and to 196,000 youth ages 15 to 24. Twenty thousand youth ages 17 and under were accepted as refugees and 2,000 were granted asylum in the same year. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) apprehended almost 122,000 juveniles in the U.S. in 2004. Of this total, 84.6 percent were released back to Mexico, or in rare cases to Canada.

(National Juvenile Justice Network)

It has been said the crooks will always find creeks to enter any system in the world. And when the system is welcoming and benevolent, the infiltration is much easier. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status law (Please read the article below by eminent attorney Anand Ahuja) was enacted with a humanitarian objective to provide protection to these minors who are victims of domestic abuse.

Over the years, the law stands abused. It has become a booming business in many countries to push young boys and girls, mainly boys (77%), in to the United States territory and make them take advantage of SIJS.

The Indian Panorama Investigative team came across quite a few people in Queens and Long Island in New York who are part of the thriving racket to smuggle in young boys and girls from India. The reports received by us indicate that it is a big business in many South Asian countries, in particular, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan as also in many other countries across the world.

We were taken for a shock to get to know how elaborate the racket’s dragnet is, which involves agents in countries from which the young people are sent, agents at the Mexican side of the US border who help them cross over in to the United States, agents in the US who manage a guardian for the boy/girl and so on so forth. All this involves huge money. In India, the price to send a young boy or a girl in to USA is anywhere between $80,000 to $100,000.

Another shocking revelation was the involvement of church in this racket. During our talk with some who are involved in the racket told us, on condition of anonymity, that at least, one priest from a Christian Church in New York and a Sikh priest from a Sikh Gurudwara in Arizona are actively involved in running the racket. The authorities do not suspect the priests of any wrong doing and the latter take advantage of it.

Our source told us that the Christian Priest who is based in New York and comes from Punjab, India, visits his home state in India to “recruit” the youth who want to come to USA. It was pointed out to us that the pries has been making regular trips for the job. He arranges the incoming youth’s stay and finds him a guardian. Interestingly, all the young people who come here and come to have guardians, work and stay elsewhere, not necessarily with their guardians.

The person agreeing to be a guardian to a youth is offered a payment of between $5000.00 to $10,000. The attorney’s fees is anywhere between $3000.00 and $5000.00. We were also told about two attorneys whose services the priest utilizes regularly. Also, there are some attorneys who specialize in such cases. The gentleman who offered to be guardian to a young man confided in us that the young man had disappeared and that he had to report the disappearance to the court.

The malaise is much deeper and goes beyond simple monetary racket. It has serious implications for America’s security. With ISIS and Al Qaeda stepping up recruitment of young people from all over the world, USA is threatened as never before because of such soft laws which allow easy infiltration in to the country. Our source, on condition of anonymity, told us that he had come to know that the enemies of USA are all set to push in young people in to USA to carry out their agenda in America, which is to harm the country in every way.

A thorough investigation by the US administration agencies concerned in to the racket and the possible infiltration of enemies of USA in to the country, taking advantage of the benevolent soft humanitarian laws needs to be done sooner than later. And the earlier, the better.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Throughout its history, the United States has been a refuge for oppressed people from around the world. The Pilgrims, the Quakers, the Amish, and countless others came to this country in centuries past, while in the more recent past immigrants have been Cubans, Jews, Southeast Asians, and others.What those diverse people shared was a belief that America could offer them refuge from government oppression. The United States has always been at the forefront of protection issues, and traditionally has granted sanctuary to victims of human rights abuses from around the world.

This refuge or protecting in the USA, however, is not limited to victims of political oppression but also is available to those who are victims of domestic violence and abuse specially minors.With an objective to provide protection to these minors who are victims of domestic abuse, Congress, in 2008, enacted a new statute, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, (TVPRA 2008).

The statute expands the definition of Special Immigrant Juvenile so that more children can qualify for the status, provides greater protections from aging out, removes additional grounds of inadmissibility to lawful permanent residence, and requires the US government to process the cases within 180 days for those undocumented youth who qualify for SIJS.

The Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act has expanded the definition of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) to allow undocumented immigrant youth to petition for legal status based on abuse, neglect, or abandonment by one or both parents. SIJS waives unlawful entry, working without authorization, status as a public charge, and certain immigration violations. Once a minor receives SIJS, he/she will be able to adjust his/her status to that of a lawful permanent resident, obtain work authorization, and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.

To be eligible under SIJS, one must be (a) under 21 at the time of filing, (b) Currently must be unmarried, and (c) Must be present in the United States. Further, SIJS visa program is different from other types of visas in that it requires coordination with a state family or Surrogate court. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status has two prong tests. First, the minor has to engage in a custody/adoption proceedings in the Family or Surrogate’s Court in the county where he/she resides.

As part of this proceeding, the court is to find minor’s eligibility for SIJS. Besides a guardianship petition, it is also possible to file a petition requesting an order though a custody, neglect, adoption, permanency hearing for children in foster care etc., proceeding. An order from a Family Court or Surrogate Court granting custody/adoption is a pre-requisite to applying for SIJS status. On February 5, 2014, the New York Appellate Division, Second Department, stated that New York State Family Courts do in fact have the authority to appoint a natural parent to be the guardian of his or her own children.

The court explained that under the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, any person may petition for guardianship of an infant. SCPA §1703. Therefore, the court reasoned that since the statute does not impose any limitations, appointment of guardianship may also be granted to a natural parent. The court’s reasoning was based upon prior decisions involving contests for guardianship between a natural parent and a relative or nonrelative of a child, where the natural parent has been named as the guardian or co-guardian of the child.

Matter of Revis v. Marzan (100 AD 3d 1004); Matter of Justina S. (180 AD 2d 641). One is to keep in mind that a state Family court and/or Surrogate court that grants custody/adoption petition does not make any immigration decision. After receiving this order from the Family or Surrogate’s Court, one has to go through the second stage, i.e., the one is to then apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for SIJS. Though USCIS one will get SIJS that would bestow upon the child lawful permanent residence and work authorization.

Whether one receives one’s special immigrant juvenile visa and green card concurrently or applies for an adjustment of status after your SIJ application is approved, one generally receives most of the same rights and privileges as other lawful permanent residents. If the petition is approved and the child becomes a lawful permanent resident, he or she will have access to financial aid for college, be able to work legally, be eligible for some public benefits, and be able to apply for US citizenship five years after becoming a permanent resident.

However; one is to keep in mind that the granting of SIJ status is based on allegations of abuse, abandonment or neglect by the applicant’s parents, a person who receives a green card or even ultimately citizenship through the SIJ program cannot petition for a green card on behalf of those parents. Moreover, SIJ program participants cannot petition on behalf of their siblings until they become U.S. citizens through naturalization. “Immigration law is extremely complicated-and with children, more so,” says Lenni Benson, a New York Law School professor and director of Safe Passage, a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to immigrant children in the state.

Since expertise in both the family law and immigration law is required for SIJS, therefore, it’s better to retain the services of a competent attorney for these cases.

(The author, an Attorney at Law, is licensed to practice law in the States of New York, Connecticut, Virginia, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, U.S. Tax Court, U.S. District Court; Southern District of NY, U.S. District Court; Eastern District of NY. He works as an attorney with Anand Ahuja Associates, Attorneys at Law and International Business Consultants, 76 North Broadway Suite # 2000, Hicksville, NY 11801. He can be reached at anandesq@hotmail.com or on phone nos. (516) 502-3262, and (718) 850-1952. )

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