WHY THE SIJS PROJECT
The Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) offers an almost certain path to a green card for those who are eligible - especially in a time when it has become increasingly difficult for undocumented immigrants to gain legal immigration status through other means like asylum. The challenge? A young person absolutely must complete the process before they turn 21 years old, or lose their opportunity forever.
For many young people who are SIJS eligible, the multi-step process, the meetings, the court appearances, can be incredibly burdensome to complete. Many young people are here with no adult help, so other life priorities like housing, employment, and medical needs, end up taking priority over immigration bureaucracy. For others, past negative experiences with systems can lead to a distrust of lawyers. The consequences can be missing appointments, court dates, and not completing the process on time.
Also, it comes as no shock that the immigration process is built to disempower marginalized people, and elevate those with power. We don't believe that immigration is simply a bureaucratic process, it is also an incredible step towards personal and community freedom. Centering youth in this journey - with lawyers, and volunteers, acting as tools on that journey - reclaims the power young immigrants already have through their journeys to the US.
HOW WE WORK
We do provide legal representation for every person we work with, but we focus on relationships with non-lawyer volunteers who act as navigators. They help the young person, and the lawyers, ensure that all the steps are completed to get SIJS in a timely manner. Through that 3 - 6 month process, they also act as a resource for the young person, helping to navigate New York City and problem solve other areas of their life as they arise, and sometimes just being a friend. By creating relationships between non-lawyer volunteers and youth we built trust, and we empower youth by encouraging them to view this as their process, and one that is accessible to anyone, not just lawyers.
WHO WE WORK WITH
We are currently take just a few cases at a time. We will take cases in Manhattan, Bronx, or Brooklyn with Unaccompanied Minors only. We will take affirmative or defensive cases.
Note: We do not work on an asylum case or typically represent youth or their parents in their immigration hearings. We will try to refer people to other legal service organizations when possible.