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Services for Children

Protecting Children

As the only nonprofit legal service provider in Nebraska with the ability to successfully represent children eligible for SIJS in both state and immigration proceedings, we believe every abused, abandoned, or neglected noncitizen child should be evaluated by a qualified immigration professional to determine their eligibility for immigration benefits, including SIJS, before that child reaches the age of majority.

What is SIJS?

Special Immigrant Juvenille Status

Some children present in the United States without legal immigration status may be in need of humanitarian protection because they have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent. Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status is an immigration classification that may allow for these vulnerable children to apply immediately for lawful permanent resident status (“LPR” status or a “Green Card”). 

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for SIJS, a child must be:

 

  • Unmarried
  • Under 21 years of age at the time of filing with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • Physically present in the United States
  • Have a qualifying juvenile court order.

 

The order must include the three following findings: 

 

  • Reunification with one or both of the child’s parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis under state law.
  • It would not be in the child’s best interest to be returned to his or her country of origin.

In Nebraska, immigrant children must obtain a state court SIJS order before reaching the age of 19 and apply for SIJS with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before age 21, or they permanently lose eligibility.

Receiving immigration legal services from Immigrant Legal Center is a critical first step towards healing and growth for these children and their families. SIJS provides a pathway to citizenship, which comes with access to public health benefits, higher wage growth, civic engagement, protection from deportation, access to higher education and more.

 

ILC has bilingual attorneys who serve UACs statewide.  Some of the work ILC has done to date includes the following:

 
  • Created an Attorney of the Day program at the Omaha Immigration Court where ILC and pro bono attorneys screen UACs for relief and provide representation on the court’s juvenile docket.
  • Successfully appealed questions of first impression to the Nebraska Supreme Court.
  • Drafted and lobbied for LB826 (2018), a bill to clarify and affirm that Nebraska judges have jurisdiction and authority to make SIJS findings.
  • Conducted outreach in target communities across Nebraska.
  • Presented in Omaha, Lincoln, and rural Through the Eyes of the Child meetings, statewide Continuing Legal Education courses, and other large-scale conferences where the focus was child advocacy and protection.
  • Represented children in 2019 with a 98% success rate.
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