Defending the Right to SIJS in California

J.L. v. Cissna, et al, is a class action challenging an unlawful Trump Administration policy that would deny humanitarian relief to hundreds of immigrant children in California. The policy in effect bars a class of petitioners in California, aged 18–20, from being granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) despite California state courts having determined these young people were eligible for this humanitarian relief based on past parental abuse, abandonment or neglect.

Plaintiffs allege that in early 2018, the federal government began to unlawfully deny class members’ petitions for relief by refusing to recognize the authority of some California juvenile courts, a change that was implemented without any notice or any public announcement. The suit was filed in August 2018 by Public CounselManatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP; and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR).

 

CASE UPATES:

  • October 2018, Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, issued a preliminary injunction blocking the administration’s efforts to implement its new policy. Judge Cousins found that the government’s justifications in support of its policy change were “lacking” and some of its reasoning was “flawed,” that the plaintiffs raised “serious questions going to the merits” of the government’s case, and that the immigrant children subject to the preliminary injunction face irreparable harm without the injunction.
  • February 2019, Judge Cousins granted plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. The Court certified the following class:
    • Children who have received or will receive guardianship orders pursuant to California Probate Code § 1510.1(a) and who have received or will receive denials of their SIJ status petitions on the grounds that the state court that issued the SIJ Findings lacked jurisdiction because the court did not have the authority to reunify the children with their parents.
  • March 2019, Judge Cousins denied the Government’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit, stating "Defendants' interpretation of the SIJ statute reads in an additional requirement. Because that interpretation is contrary to federal and California law, plaintiffs have stated a claim."

 

KEY LEGAL DOCUMENTS: