Abused Teen Finds New Hope in United States Thanks to Orrick


A New York pro bono team secured permanent residence via Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for a client who arrived in the United States as a young teen.

The client, Ms. H., left an abusive home in Honduras in 2011, hoping to reunite with family already in the United States. She was detained and placed in removal proceedings immediately upon arrival. She was eventually released into the care of her family in New York, where she began to attend school and flourish even though her status remained uncertain. Our legal services organization partner, Kids In Need of Self Defense (KIND), referred Ms. H. to Orrick, and our team prepared a petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), which allows immigrant children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected in their country of origin to petition for permanent residence.

Though SIJS is a federal remedy, it requires a state court custody or guardianship order as well as a state court special finding that the child cannot be reunited with a parent in her home country. Our team obtained an adjournment of removal proceedings in immigration court pending a custody determination by the family court in New York's Nassau County. After a hearing, a New York State family court judge granted custody to Ms. H.'s family members in New York and issued a special finding that Ms. H. could not safely return to Honduras. The family court's order and findings were incorporated into a SIJS petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; once that petition was granted, our lawyers worked closely with Ms. H. to prepare and file her successful final petition for permanent resident status.

Carrie Lebigre, Jamie Shookman and Kevin Hynes worked on this matter.