There is an exploding number of young people getting green cards because they have a particular attribute — they are, in the words of the Department of Homeland Security, "juvenile court dependents". That is how they are described in the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics (Table 7).
These aliens do not get anything as minimal as the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) benefits; they obtain full permanent resident alien status; complete with instant legal Social Security numbers, and three to five years later, the opportunity to become naturalized citizens. It also gives them the opportunity to start filing DHS petitions on behalf of their relatives — the term is chain migration.
The number of petitions approved (an initial stage in the process of getting a visa or an adjustment) for the court dependents has soared from 1,590 in FY 2010 to 15,101 in FY 2016. And though some come from all over the world, fully half of the victims/beneficiaries are nationals of just four nations: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.
Further, these are not new arrivals to this country (except for about 1 percent) and most of them are here illegally, though some from Central America may have Temporary Protected Status. This is yet another specialized legalization program for a specific group of illegal aliens.
What's going on here?
The law creating green card opportunities includes five employment-based, numerically limited preference categories; the first three are for workers of various kinds, the fifth is for wealthy investors in the EB-5 program. The fourth EB preference, which gets about 10,000 visas annually, seems, on the face of it, to be a catchall grouping. It includes, according to USCIS:
Religious Workers, Special Immigrant Juveniles, Broadcasters, G-4 International Organization or NATO-6 Employees and Their Family Members, International Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad, Armed Forces Members, Panama Canal Zone Employees, Certain Physicians, Afghan and Iraqi Translators, Afghan and Iraqi Nationals Who Have Provided Faith [sic] Service in Support of U.S. Operations.
The problem is that the number of "special immigrant juveniles" a.k.a. "juvenile court dependents" has grown enormously in recent years, to the extent that it threatens to crowd out — or at least cause delays for — people in the other categories. That crowding effect, which is sure to intensify, has already created a backlog of visa applicants for EB-4 visas for people from the four nations; they must wait at least 11 months before getting their full benefits.
Who are these juveniles? To quote from a CIS blog post of mine from some years ago, when the Obama administration was busily making it easier to get a green card in this way:
The main eligibility requirement for this particular mini-amnesty is that you have to be "dependent on" or "under the custody" of a juvenile court. You also must have a court determination that your parents neglected, abandoned, or abused you, and that is usually the case for delinquents of all backgrounds.
The other main requirement is that some "administrative or judicial proceedings" – not necessarily an immigration court — must have ruled, to quote the USCIS instructions to the applicants, "that it would not be in the juvenile's best interest to be returned to the juvenile's or his or her parent's country of nationality."
So this is a population composed of troubled and, in many cases no doubt, troubling young people. The past administration made it easier to qualify by changing a definition used in the process — not through congressional action. Aliens previously had to be under 21 when the government acted on an application; but it was changed so an alien now has to be under 21 when the petition is filed and, lo, the floodgates opened, as our posting at the time predicted.
What is worrisome about this development is that it has become a specialized amnesty program for young people disproportionately from the four nations. While those nations have about 2 percent of the population of the world, in 2016 they constituted more than 50 percent of the admissions recorded in this category. Are the parents of teenagers in these four countries 25 times as uncaring as those worldwide?
This last question, whose answer must be "no", leads to other questions.
For example, might there be one or several questionable organized efforts to push through special juvenile petitions (many of them of probably dubious merit)? It would be helpful if DHS looked for patterns of concentration in terms of where the petitions are being filed and what lawyers or community entities seem to be specializing in this field. Are there suspicious patterns in terms of the content of the applications, with the same formulaic stories in petition after petition?
It sounds like a task for FDNS (the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate), the investigative arm of USCIS.
Note that this is not one of those programs that attract the valedictorian-type alumni — this exploding program is for the alumni of the juvenile court system.
Would it not be a better idea to terminate this program, and let those visas be used for, say, those brave people who were translators for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and for the various other classes in the EB-4 program? Religious workers rather than wards of the court?
I think so.