Migrant Youths Can Seek Work Permits Under Special Status

“”Un juez federal de Missouri dijo el jueves que un trío de jóvenes migrantes guatemaltecos, admitidos temporalmente en Estados Unidos bajo el estatus de “inmigrante juvenil especial”, pueden solicitar permisos de trabajo y dictaminaron que el gobierno interpretó mal la legislación que rige el programa SIJ…””  (Lea la traduccion completa del articulo en el primer comentario)

Law360 (February 11, 2021, 7:41 PM EST) — A Missouri federal judge said Thursday that a trio of Guatemalan migrant youths, temporarily admitted into the U.S. under “special immigrant juvenile” status, can seek work permits, ruling that the government misread legislation governing the SIJ program.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had argued that the SIJ program is “only” to adjust immigration status, but U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner said that the program, designed for young migrants who’d been abandoned, abused or neglected by parents, was also a “humanitarian gesture” that enabled them to apply for work permits.

“The legislation cleared the path” for migrant children with “special immigrant juvenile” status that were struggling to secure lawful permanent residence if they’d been employed without authorization in the U.S., Judge Fenner said.

The youth sued the government in July, arguing that the administration was wrong to deny their bids for employment authorization and that that denial had also stifled their chance to obtain driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and engage in lawful employment. Additionally, one of the youth argued that the lack of a Social Security number made him unable to take college classes while in high school.

They sought a ruling that would force the government to reopen their denied applications for employment authorization and assess them in compliance with federal immigration law.

Rekha Sharma-Crawford, an attorney for the youth, told Law360 that allowing them to work or attend school gives them “a way to move past the traumas they have suffered.”

“It is our hope that USCIS will now review their policy of denying such relief and defer to the rule of law and the mandate from Congress,” Sharma-Crawford said. “Ensuring the well-being and safety of such children is exactly the purpose of the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status program and Judge Fenner’s decision confirms that.”

While ruling in the youth’s favor regarding their ability to seek work authorization, Judge Fenner also ruled against their argument that their due process rights had been violated.

The youth had argued that the Fifth Amendment granted them the right to obtain private employment, including hospitality and manufacturing jobs through individual business owners and corporations.

But Judge Fenner said that the right to hold specific private employment and to follow a chosen profession is not a property or liberty of interest guaranteed to those with SIJ status.

“SIJs have no constitutional right to hold specific private employment and to follow a chosen profession like citizens do,” the judge said.

The USCIS has been sued repeatedly over how it handles young immigrants under its Special Immigration Juvenile policy, including a nationwide class action that resulted in DHS being forced to reopen all petitions involving members who had been wrongfully deprived of the status. Similarly, a Washington federal judge said in October that USCIS had unlawfully and unreasonably delayed the adjudication of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions for a group of immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico.

Representatives for the government did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

The migrants are represented by Rekha Sharma-Crawford of Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law.

The U.S. government is represented by Alan Thomas Simpson and Katherine Boyd Palmer-Ball of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The case is Godinez et al. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security et al., case number 4:20-cv-00828, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

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