Change in law will help special immigrant juveniles in California

Good news for young people living in California who are applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.

Governor Jerry Brown signed the AB 900 - new legislation that will help unmarried persons between the ages of 18 and 21 who are not in the custody of the State of California obtain or preserve a guardian and apply for a court order in California probate court. That court order must decree that it is not in the child's best interest to return the child to one or both parents because there is a history of abuse, neglect or abandonment; or to return the child to his or her country of origin, the country of his or her parents, or the last place he or she lived. AB 900 will take effect on January 1, 2016.

Such a court order must be submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order to apply for the special immigrant juvenile status. If the USCIS approves the petition, then you may be able to apply for adjustment of status and obtain permanent residence.

Before Governor Brown signed this law, California juvenile, probate or family courts only had jurisdiction over cases of individuals under the age of 18 seeking the appointment of a guardian and a court order to apply for special immigrant juvenile status with USCIS. The juvenile court could also review cases of unmarried persons under the age of 21 who were or sought to be in the custody of the state of California (foster care).

That meant that if the person was already 18 years old and not in the custody of the state, although he or she could apply for special immigrant juvenile status, he or she could not do the necessary paperwork in California probate court to appoint a guardian and obtain the court order to file with USCIS.

More than 100,000 unaccompanied alien children were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection between October 1, 2013 through August 31, 2015. Many of these children now live in California under the care of relatives or sponsors assigned by California courts or the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.

With the new law change, the probate court will be able to review cases of unmarried persons over 18, but under 21, who are not in the custody of the state.

Thank you to Governor Brown and the California Legislature for approve Special thanks to Assemblyman Marc Levine for introducing this bill and to all the organizations that helped get this new law passed.