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Notice of Proposed Settlement: W.A.O. v. Jaddou (SIJ Classification)

February 25, 2022 (2 min read)

USCIS: Notice of Proposed Settlement W.A.O. v. Jaddou, No. 2:19-cv-11696 (D.N.J.)

"W.A.O. v. Jaddou is a class action that was filed in federal court in New Jersey in 2019. A class action is a lawsuit filed on behalf of a large group of people, rather than on behalf of one person or a small group of people. In W.A.O. v. Jaddou, the plaintiffs (who brought the lawsuit) challenged the refusal of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to grant Special Immigrant Juvenile ("SIJ") classification to certain individuals between 18 and 21 years of age. SIJ classification is a form of immigration relief for applicants (up to age 21) who have appeared in state family court for some reason related to their care and welfare (for example, in child custody, adoption, foster care, or juvenile delinquency proceedings). In these proceedings, the state family court may make certain findings, including (1) that the applicant cannot be safely reunified with their parents because of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or something similar, and (2) that it would not be in the best interest of the applicant to be returned to their home country. Based on these findings, the young person may apply to USCIS for SIJ classification. In W.A.O. v. Jaddou, the plaintiffs claimed that USCIS had a policy of disqualifying 18-21-year-old applicants from SIJ classification (the "Challenged Policy"). In particular, the plaintiffs claimed that USCIS was delaying, questioning, denying, and revoking the SIJ petitions of 18-21-year-old applicants because USCIS believed that the New Jersey Family Court did not have the power to order a person in this age group to be reunified with, or placed in the custody of, a parent or another responsible adult or entity. In July 2019, the federal District Court for the District of New Jersey ordered USCIS to stop applying the Challenged Policy. USCIS followed the Court's order and has since approved the petitions of 715 applicants whose SIJ petitions were pending at any time between January 1, 2018, and July 10, 2019; who were between the ages of 18 and 21 at the time of filing; and who listed a residential address in New Jersey. USCIS has also denied some SIJ petitions filed by individuals who fell within the above criteria, but the plaintiffs' lawyers have reviewed these denials and determined that they were not based on the Challenged Policy. It is also possible that, through no fault of the parties, some applicants who met the above criteria for help under the Court's decision were not identified. Their rights as Unidentified Potential Class Members are described below..."