Reuters recently reported that the U.S. is taking steps to limit the number of unaccompanied minor children who qualify for special protections. Traditionally, these children have a right to make their claims to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer in a non-adversarial setting, rather than in front of an immigration judge in court. If the USCIS officer denies their claims, they then normally have a second chance to plead their cases at immigration court.
In 2013, the Obama administration had issued a memorandum that extended these protections for immigrant children even if they turned 18 or reunited with a parent or relative prior to filing their asylum petition. The policy change was in recognition of the fact that many immigrant children are traumatized and it takes time for them to be able to explain their situation in a manner that will allow them to apply for asylum. The Trump administration has rescinded that memorandum, characterizing the guidance as a legal “loophole” in the asylum system. The rescission of the memo went into effect on June 30, 2019, reverting to a 2009 policy regarding unaccompanied minors.
USCIS is changing the definition of “unaccompanied minor” to include only those immigrant children who meet the following criteria when they file their petitions for asylum:
- No lawful immigration status
- Under the age of 18
- No parent or legal guardian in the U.S. to care for them
Since many of these children are released to parents or guardians as quickly as possible, it is common for many of these children to be living with these individuals at the time of their asylum petition. Under the revised definition, individuals already living with sponsors would no longer qualify as unaccompanied minors, and therefore would not be eligible for the special protections offered to those children who fall within the revised definition. No matter the type of immigration issue you are facing, the skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland are here to assist you. We handle many different types of immigration cases every day and have the kind of strategic experience and skills that are necessary to reach the desired outcome. By calling our office as quickly as possible after your legal issue arises, we will have the best opportunity to successfully resolve your immigration law case.