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“Any Day They Could Deport Me”

Over 44,000 Immigrant Children Trapped in SIJS Backlog

“Any Day They Could Deport Me”

Over 44,000 Immigrant Children Trapped in SIJS Backlog

“Any Day They Could Deport Me”: Over 44,000 Immigrant Children Trapped in the SIJS Backlog is the result of a collaborative research project conducted by The End SIJS Backlog Coalition, The Door and Professor Laila Hlass.

In this report, we illustrate the costs of the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) backlog to directly impacted children, child welfare agencies, as well as to legal services providers, immigration agencies and the courts. Lastly, we offer recommendations to end the backlog, including specific federal legislative amendments that could solve the problem and provide permanent protection, as Congress intended, for the tens of thousands of vulnerable immigrant children.

To quantify the harms of the SIJS backlog, we obtained a dataset of nearly 140,000 SIJS applications, as well as 26,000 SIJS-based green card applications, after suing USCIS under the Freedom of Information Act. This is the first time that data on the SIJS backlog has been made available to the public. Our report is based on findings from this data set, analyzed by the Migration Policy Institute, and from first-hand peer interviews of impacted youth conducted by Maria Huerta Rodriguez and Ivonne Silva, our youth researchers, as well as interviews with legal services providers and child welfare agencies across the country.

About the Youth Researchers

SIJS backlog youth researcher-advocates developed research questions and interviewed other young people, collecting and documenting the stories of impacted youth for this report. They attended meetings and shared their own stories with members of Congress and led a youth organizing training to support other impacted youth in doing the same.

Maria Huerta Rodriguez is 23 years old. She came to the United States from Mexico when she was around 7 years old. She spent about two and a half years in the SIJS backlog, receiving her green card in February of 2021. Maria’s dream is to become a lawyer to help the community and shape the law. When reflecting on her work with the End SIJS Backlog Coalition, Maria shared that she “was very eager to participate in this project to help other youths impacted by the backlog like myself and be their voice. Interviewing youths affected by the backlog and listening to their story stirred up many feelings for myself. I learned from each of their stories and admire their strength, it motivated me more to continue to fight to make a change to end the backlog.”

Ivonne Silva is 21 years old. She came to the United States from El Salvador when she was 13 years old. She spent around 4 years in the SIJS backlog, finally receiving her green card in October of 2021. In discussing her time in the backlog, Ivonne shared “when I was in the backlog I had hope to get the chance to rebuild my life for better and to not struggle anymore with financial aid for school and not being able to work without a working permit.” Ivonne is currently working part time and going to school for cosmetology. She dreams of opening her own beauty salon. When reflecting on her work with the End SIJS Backlog Coalition, Ivonne shared that “it was a great experience hearing from people with different backgrounds and similar situations that I was in. We connected better because I understood their situation as immigrants. Having meetings with the members of Congress made me feel as if we were part of something big, making our voices heard and looking for changes in the law to stop the backlog from making thousands of immigrants lives more difficult.”

About The Authors

Rachel Leya Davidson is the Managing Attorney for Policy and Special Projects at The Door in New York. She is on the Steering Committee of the End SIJS Backlog Coalition and leads the legislative advocacy working group. Her work focuses on the policy issues surrounding humanitarian immigration relief for children and young people, with a particular focus on SIJS.

Laila Hlass is a Professor of Practice at Tulane Law School, where she co-directs the Immigrant Rights Clinic. Her research and writing focus primarily on legal frameworks governing immigrant children and the convergence of the immigration enforcement and criminal legal regimes. Her articles have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals including California Law Review, Utah Law Review, and Villanova Law Review, as well as news outlets including the Boston Globe and Slate.

About the Youth Researchers

SIJS backlog youth researcher-advocates developed research questions and interviewed other young people, collecting and documenting the stories of impacted youth for this report. They attended meetings and shared their own stories with members of Congress and led a youth organizing training to support other impacted youth in doing the same.

Maria Huerta Rodriguez is 23 years old. She came to the United States from Mexico when she was around 7 years old. She spent about two and a half years in the SIJS backlog, receiving her green card in February of 2021. Maria’s dream is to become a lawyer to help the community and shape the law. When reflecting on her work with the End SIJS Backlog Coalition, Maria shared that she “was very eager to participate in this project to help other youths impacted by the backlog like myself and be their voice. Interviewing youths affected by the backlog and listening to their story stirred up many feelings for myself. I learned from each of their stories and admire their strength, it motivated me more to continue to fight to make a change to end the backlog.”

Ivonne Silva is 21 years old. She came to the United States from El Salvador when she was 13 years old. She spent around 4 years in the SIJS backlog, finally receiving her green card in October of 2021. In discussing her time in the backlog, Ivonne shared “when I was in the backlog I had hope to get the chance to rebuild my life for better and to not struggle anymore with financial aid for school and not being able to work without a working permit.” Ivonne is currently working part time and going to school for cosmetology. She dreams of opening her own beauty salon. When reflecting on her work with the End SIJS Backlog Coalition, Ivonne shared that “it was a great experience hearing from people with different backgrounds and similar situations that I was in. We connected better because I understood their situation as immigrants. Having meetings with the members of Congress made me feel as if we were part of something big, making our voices heard and looking for changes in the law to stop the backlog from making thousands of immigrants lives more difficult.”

About The Authors

Rachel Leya Davidson is the Managing Attorney for Policy and Special Projects at The Door in New York. She is on the Steering Committee of the End SIJS Backlog Coalition and leads the legislative advocacy working group. Her work focuses on the policy issues surrounding humanitarian immigration relief for children and young people, with a particular focus on SIJS.

Laila Hlass is a Professor of Practice at Tulane Law School, where she co-directs the Immigrant Rights Clinic. Her research and writing focus primarily on legal frameworks governing immigrant children and the convergence of the immigration enforcement and criminal legal regimes. Her articles have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals including California Law Review, Utah Law Review, and Villanova Law Review, as well as news outlets including the Boston Globe and Slate.