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Judge says no to policy denying green cards based on age

April 9, 2019

NEW YORK (AP) — The Trump administration must stop denying green card applications for certain young immigrants because of their age, and some cases that have already been rejected under that premise must be re-evaluated, a federal judge in Manhattan has ordered.

Advocates in New York had filed a lawsuit on behalf of immigrants who had applied for legal permanent residency under a government program dating back to 1990 called special immigrant juvenile status, which lets immigrants who have fled from abusive parents apply for a court-appointed guardian and a green card to stay in the country.

While applicants must file paperwork before age 21, the Trump administration has said some are too old to qualify once they turn 18, which has led to a spate of denials in New York, Texas and California in the past year. A separate lawsuit has also been filed in California.

In New York, U.S. District Judge John Koeltl had ruled a few weeks ago in the plaintiffs’ favor, saying the administration’s policy violates law.

His order filed Monday said immigration officials couldn’t use the policy for denial of pending cases, and some cases that have been denied based solely on it must be re-evaluated.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it was evaluating the decision and had no further comment.

The advocates who filed the suit called it “a huge step.”

“Immigrant youth who reside in New York State and who survived abuse, abandonment, or neglect will now be put on a path toward securing a green card,” said Beth Krause, supervising attorney of the immigrant youth project at the Legal Aid Society. “We laud the court for recognizing and correcting the federal government’s unlawful action on this issue.”

In California, a judge in October granted a preliminary injunction against the use of the age-based policy, and advocates there were hopeful that the decision in New York would be mirrored there.

Since 2010, more than 50,000 young immigrants have gotten green cards through the program. The approval rate for applications has been high.

But as those applications to the program increased in recent years, so did denials — 2,000 applications rejected over the past two fiscal years, more than the total of the previous seven years.

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