Of the millions of immigrants that arrive in the United States each year, many are minors and are undocumented. Regardless of how they enter the United States, however, minors can face extra hurdles between them and lawful status in the country. Knowing the requirements for minors can help to avoid a lengthy court battle that can tax the patience of all involved.
One of the most common issues that befalls immigrant minors, even if all their papers are in order, is that priority and cutoff date queues are so long that it is not unusual for minors to “age out” of the system. Minors are permitted, under U.S. law, to immigrate on their parent’s petition if certain requirements are fulfilled. However, if a child ceases to be a minor while his or her parent is awaiting approval, he or she is sometimes left behind with no options.
In 2014, Norma Uy was granted visa status in the United States after waiting 21 years. However, her daughter Ruth, who had been two at the time of her application, was 23—she had “aged out,” and would have to start the entire process all over again.
In 2002, Congress passed the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), which effectively froze the clock at the date the petition was submitted for those of a certain preference category. For example, Ruth Uy’s age would have “frozen” at two, as her mother submitted a petition in the appropriate presence category. Thus, when Norma’s petition was approved, Ruth would have also been granted status. However, the Supreme Court reversed the decision establishing the Act in 2014, which means that as of this writing only those who have aged out of 2A family based petitions are covered—one category out of many.
Undocumented minors have even more difficulty. If they present themselves at the border, they will be taken into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Since minors are presumed to be unable to care for themselves, they may not simply be released into the community. Most often, suitable adults will be asked to serve as sponsors. Sponsors are not legal guardians, per se; they will, however, provide a child with basic necessities and vouch for his or her continued compliance with U.S. immigration law. If a child has a deportation order entered against him or her, the sponsor will ensure that he or she present him or herself to the appropriate authorities.
If, however, a minor turns 21 while in the immigration system, the next steps can be uncertain. Some are granted leave to remain and attempt to adjust status while in the United States, under programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Others are deported and told to apply for status as an adult. They, like Ruth Uy, wind up at the back of the proverbial line.
An Attorney Can Help Clarify
This area of immigration law is notoriously complex; however, it is also pivotal to ensure that minor children are not mistreated. If you or a loved one is facing these situations, often an attorney can be a great help. The compassionate and understanding DuPage County immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC know that family matters most of all, and we will do our best to use our knowledge to get your family the optimal outcome. Contact us today to discuss your options.
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