Permissibility of Providing Legal Services to Noncitizen Parents and Noncitizen Guardians of Children Seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

August 26, 2016

The Legal Services Corporation’s (LSC) General Counsel issued an Advisory Opinion confirming that legal services agencies receiving funding from LSC may represent noncitizen parents/guardians of noncitizen children who have suffered battering, extreme cruelty, sexual assault, human trafficking or other U visa-listed criminal activities. The legal assistance provided must be directly related to obtaining relief from that abuse for the child.

Related legal assistance is ““legal assistance directly related . . . to the prevention of, or obtaining relief from, the battery, cruelty, sexual assault, or trafficking” and includes representation that helps the victim “to escape from the abusive situation, ameliorate the current effects of the abuse, or protect against future abuse.”

Highlights of the opinion include:

  • Allows representation of the parent/guardian in family court matters that provide related legal assistance that benefits the noncitizen abused child without regard to the immigration status of the parent/guardian
    • Examples of proceeding that benefit child victim include:
      • Seeking an SIJS predicate order in a juvenile or family court case
      • Obtaining a protection order for an abused child
      • Custody
      • Child support
      • Paternity
      • Adoption
  • Allows representation of noncitizen parents and guardians
  • Defines guardians to include “individuals who have custody of and responsibility for the child in question, regardless of whether that individual is the child’s court-appointed guardian or custodian.”
  • Adopts DHS’ broad interpretation of “juvenile court” to be “a court in the United States that has jurisdiction under state law to make judicial determinations about the custody and care of children.”
  • Ensures that legal representation is available to help abused noncitizen children get the help they need from state courts both in cases where:
    • the parent/guardian independently qualifies for assistance from an LSC funded agency
    • the noncitizen parent/guardian does not independently qualify
  • Confirms that when both a noncitizen parent/guardian and the noncitizen child qualify for LSC representation under anti-abuse regulations the LSC funded agency can related legal assistance representing  the noncitizen parent/guardian in proceedings that benefit either the parent/guardian or the child.

The following are links to the LSC regulations, program letters and Advisory Opinions addressing the allowable LSC funded representation of immigrants who qualify under the LSC anti-abuse regulations including representation of abused noncitizen children who qualify for SIJS:

Advisory Opinion 2016-002 (Revised) Permissability of Providing Legal Services to Noncitizen Parents and Noncitizen Guardians of Children Seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Cover Letter from Legal Services Corporation to Grantees AO-2016-002

LSC Program Letter 14-3 Assessing Eligibility of Aliens Under 45 C.F.R. § 1626.4(c)(1) 

Legal Service Corporation Immigrant Representation Regulations Creating New Anti-Abuse Representation 45 C.F.R. 1626

Articles discussing eligibility of immigrant victims for representation by LSC funded programs:

Legal Services for All: Implementing the Violence Against Women Act of 2005