Arguijo v. USCIS (July 24 2020) US Court of Appeals 7th Circuit [pdf]

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) represents Jennifer Arguijo, who was 11 years old when her mother married her stepfather, who turned out to be abusive. Applying BIA case law from other contexts, VSC held that a stepchild-stepfather relationship ends after the biological parent divorces the stepparent, unless there is a “continuing relationship” between the stepchild and stepfather. NIJC sought reconsideration, and appealed to the AAO. The AAO affirmed the VSC’s decision to deny the VAWA self-petition unless the abused step-child had a continuing relationship with the abusive step-father. NIJC filed a challenge to the AAO denial under the Administrative Procedure Act in Federal District Court in 2013. Unfortunately, the case moved slowly but Jennifer eventually lost on Summary Judgment in 2020, and NIJC appealed to the Seventh Circuit. The National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project filed an Amicus brief in the 7th Circuit in support of NIJC’s appeal represented by K&L Gates LLP. The Seventh Circuit overturned the District Court and The Court handed down its decision on March 12, 2021 confirming that in the context of the Violence Against Women Act “stepchild” status survives divorce. Divorce between the natural parent and the abusive stepparent does not cut a stepchild victim off from VAWA immigration relief, including self-petitioning.