This spring we learned from the case of “GE,” a 14-year-old unaccompanied minor who was apparently cleared for asylum but had still been housed indefinitely at the Yolo County Juvenile Detention Facility under the unaccompanied minor program—despite having no criminal record.
Holly Cooper, co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic at UC Davis, expressed concern that unaccompanied minors have few legal remedies, and “can find themselves indefinitely detained.”
We would learn that in this area, unaccompanied minors are housed at two shelters in Solano and Contra Costa Counties, but there are also 30 beds reserved for them in the Yolo County juvenile hall, which is the only secure facility in the state.
After public pressure following the news report, the county was able to release GE into an appropriate home, but the case illustrated problems in the system.
This week, Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed an amicus brief in In re Denis G., a case involving an unaccompanied immigrant youth seeking legal immigration status.
At the invitation of the Los Angeles Superior Court and the suggestion of the California Supreme Court, Attorney General Becerra weighed in on this issue of great importance regarding youth fleeing dangerous conditions in their home countries.
“Imagine a child you know fleeing to our country because she was being abused, abandoned or neglected by her parents. As people, can we really turn our back on them? Californians have answered ‘no’ by passing laws that provide a clear and consistent process so that these children can seek refuge by obtaining legal status,” said Attorney General Becerra.
He added, “I am committed to promoting the safety and security of all California children. I will work to make sure that our state laws are consistently applied so that our courts remain open to those who must undergo the legal processes necessary to seek a visa.”
In recent years, the Attorney General’s office said, “California has worked to streamline the process that allows children, like Denis, to apply for ‘Special Immigrant Juvenile Status’ (SIJS) with the federal government.
“That process allows certain minors who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents to remain in the United States. Youth who wish to apply for this type of immigration relief from the federal government must first obtain an order from a state court making certain findings.”
The AG’s office noted, “Filed at the court’s invitation, yesterday’s amicus brief discusses the vital role our state courts play in making child welfare decisions as part of the special immigrant juvenile process, describes applicable state laws, and emphasizes the importance of ensuring that children are able to pursue any valid claims for SIJS.”
Attorney General Becerra believes that it is critical to stand up for unaccompanied children who come to California seeking safety and security.
Since coming into office, his office says he has acted to protect the rights of California’s immigrant population, especially immigrant children.
In April 2017, the Attorney General filed an amicus brief in the California Supreme Court in In re Bianka M., arguing that minors who are living with one parent in the United States should be allowed to seek an order in state court necessary to obtain “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status” without having to join the absent parent—who abused, abandoned, or neglected them—as a party to the proceeding.