The Trump administration reportedly secretly changed a rule in the Special Immigrant Juvenile status (SIJ) and now vulnerable young immigrants are paying the price.
Under the policy, those 21 and younger who have been abused, abandoned or neglected by parents, were eligible for green cards.
However, in a recent policy change, the administration recently denied applications of several people because of their age. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, people who are between 18 and 21 years of age are now ineligible to obtain green cards.
The applicants were reportedly denied classification “because of an unannounced policy reversal by the Trump administration.”
“Once a person attains the age of 18, the family courts lack jurisdiction over the person’s custody,” read one denial letter.
The status was designed for children of undocumented immigrants. To qualify, children have to prove their mistreatment in U.S. family court, after which they are protected from deportation and allowed to apply for green cards.
The Legal Aid Society of New York said so far, at least 81 people had been or are likely to be denied the immigration authorities.
More than 1,000 people may be affected by the recent change.
“Nothing in the federal statutes has changed; only the interpretation has changed. And now, U.S.C.I.S. is interpreting this in a way to cut out a very large portion of kids who, until the past couple of weeks, had gotten these grants under the same facts,” said Beth Krause, the supervising attorney for the Immigrant Youth Project at the Legal Aid Society of New York, told the publication.
The policy was first enacted in 1990 but received attention in 2013 after an influx of unaccompanied children from Central America emerged on the southern U.S. border.
Applications ballooned following the 2014 surge in unaccompanied minors. The program’s numbers hit 19,475 in the 2016 fiscal year, a more than 1,000 percent increase from 1,646 in fiscal year 2010.
Before limiting the program, the White House and immigration hard-liners in Congress argued lawyers have taken advantage of the program by using it for kids who are not in the kind of peril the statute was intended to address.
They also complained that children abandoned by one parent can apply for the program even if another parent is providing adequate care. Lawyers added that the increased scrutiny by the government left kids in limbo.
Spotlight, Banner: Reuters, Joe Penney