By Corinne Ramey
March 16, 2019
A federal judge ruled late Friday that the Trump administration broke the law by denying a path to a green card for abused, abandoned and neglected young illegal immigrants in New York state.
Illegal immigrants under age 21 were once regularly awarded what is known as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which allowed them to obtain a green card. Early last year, federal immigration authorities began denying this status to immigrants 18 through 20 years old.
Last June, attorneys from the Legal Aid Society and law firm Latham and Watkins LLP sought class-action status for a lawsuit challenging what they said was an abrupt policy change. One plaintiff was beaten by relatives in Haiti. Another went to live with family in the U.S. after gang threats in El Salvador.
In the Friday ruling, U.S. District Judge John Koeltl said such a policy change must come from Congress, not immigration authorities. He granted class status to the plaintiffs and instructed the lawyers to propose ways for implementing his decision.
Beth Krause, a lawyer at the Legal Aid Society, said the ruling gives her clients and other young people a pathway to permanent residence. “It will help potentially thousands of kids in New York regularize their status,” she said.
A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment. The agency has previously said its policies are in line with state and federal law.