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Supreme Court rules on 'aged out' child immigration issue

In 1998, a woman moved to the United States and listed her 13-year-old son on her green card application. Her hope was that they would be able to become permanent residents, but as many immigrants may attest to, the process isn’t necessarily quick. The child was given a priority date, but was facing aging out of the system upon turning 21 eight years later if approval wasn’t granted before that day.

In 2002, lawmakers in Congress passed legislation that would provide a solution to this woman’s problem. The law specifically addressed the issue of priority dates for children who had turned 21 or “aged out” as this child could.

The 2002 child immigration law may have been designed to keep families together, but it could have the exact opposite result in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling argue some immigrant advocates.

When the child in the case above did eventually turn 21, his mother was told that he had lost that status and would be given a new priority number, starting the process over entirely. It was a decision that she wasn’t going to let slide.

When she took her claim to a federal district court, the court determined that the administrative tribunal’s decision would stand. The woman appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where the decision was reversed. The court noted that children in this particular situation would be automatically placed in a separate priority category. This time, it was the Obama administration that appealed.

In a decision split 5-4, the Supreme Court of the United States again reversed the ruling made by the court below it. The court’s ruling noted that there was an ambiguity in the law itself. Congress established a priority order, noted Justice Elena Kagan in the plurality opinion, and establishing a new category for children that have aged out would “scramble” that order.

As noted above, immigration and naturalization law in the United States is quite complex, but an Atlanta attorney that focuses on these types of cases can help families throughout Georgia navigate the confusion to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as is possible.

Source: The New York Times, “Children ‘Aged Out’ of Immigration System Won’t Get Special Priority, Justices Rule,” James Barron, June 9, 2014

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