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Information Available on Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) and Dependency Filings in State Courts

The number of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) from Central America entering the United States has been dramatically increasing. Federal law provides a mechanism for UAC to seek Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). However, in order to obtain this status, federal law requires that a state court judge with juvenile jurisdiction first issue an order with certain required statutory findings that enable the juvenile to file for SIJS. These juveniles must remain in the state court’s jurisdiction until the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has made a determination on SIJS. The state courts are experiencing an increase in cases seeking an order from a state court with these special findings required for SIJS application. There is concern that the influx of cases will significantly strain state court budgets and resources, as these children are placed across the United States.

The SJI-funded Immigration and the State Courts Initiative just released a guidance memo that provides information for state juvenile judges and courts on the SIJS process.