Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman: Ensuring Process Efficiency and Legal Sufficiency in Special Immigrant Juvenile Adjudications   [open pdf - 208KB]

"Established through the Immigration Act of 1990, the Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) program has undergone a number of legislative amendments in the past 25 years. Currently it protects those children who cannot be reunited with one or both parents due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis under State law. These statutory modifications have had a substantial impact on the SIJ adjudicatory process and on SIJ petitioners. The Ombudsman has brought a number of concerns to the attention of USCIS [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] over the past several years, including overreach in the exercise of its consent function; the use of age-inappropriate interviewing techniques; inconsistent application of legal standards; and petition processing delays. Although training has been developed and made available to improve SIJ adjudications, it has not fully resolved ongoing problems, as reflected in continued stakeholder reports to the Ombudsman as well as in agency actions that do not consistently comport to such training. The Ombudsman recognizes that the SIJ program presents special challenges to adjudicators who handle these complex adjudications as part of their varied portfolios. The Ombudsman has discussed with USCIS the need for centralization of the SIJ adjudication function in one location. Centralization will improve the quality and consistency in adjudications by specially trained employees dedicated to these and other petitions for protective and/or humanitarian relief. It will support a higher level of compliance with statutory processing timeframes and enhance the integrity of the product line. While USCIS has committed to consolidate the full processing of SIJ petitions, the Ombudsman recommends that SIJ petitioners be treated in a manner consistent with USCIS' treatment of other vulnerable populations, including the use of age-appropriate interviewing practices."

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