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In re C.G.H.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

September 5, 2013

In re C.G.H., Appellant.

Argued March 20, 2013.

Page 167

Meredith Boylan, Washington, DC, for appellant.

Irving B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, with whom Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, Donna M. Murasky, Deputy Solicitor General, and Stacy L. Anderson, Assistant Attorney General, filed a statement in lieu of brief, for appellee the District of Columbia.

Page 168

Before BECKWITH and EASTERLY, Associate Judges, and REID, Senior Judge.

REID, Senior Judge:

This case involves the petition of appellant C.G.H. for the adoption of a non-biological child, J.D.F.A. (" F.A." ), and a request for findings of special immigrant juvenile status (" SIJS" ) eligibility under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J) (2009 Supp. II).[1] C.G.H. now challenges the Family Court's denial of his request for findings of SIJS eligibility.

Several state and federal courts have addressed various versions and aspects of the SIJS statute in diverse factual contexts, but this is our first opportunity to consider the amended SIJS provision currently found in 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J)(i),[2] which states that the term " special immigrant" includes a child:

Page 169

who has been declared dependent on a juvenile court located in the United States or whom such a court has legally committed to, or placed under the custody of, an agency or department of a State, or an individual or entity appointed by a State or juvenile court located in the United States, and whose reunification with 1 or both of the immigrant's parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis found under State law[.]
Under the amended statute, an immigrant child may seek SIJS findings if he or she (1) has been declared dependent on a juvenile court; or (2) has been legally committed to or placed under the custody of an agency or department of a state; or (3) has been legally committed to or placed under the custody of an individual or entity appointed by a state or juvenile court; and other statutory requirements are met.

In this case, C.G.H. contends that the Family Court erroneously concluded that, if the adoption decree were granted, F.A. would not be " placed under the custody of an individual appointed by the court." In the alternative, he argues that the Family Court erred by failing to conclude that " the pendency of [the adoption petition] makes [F.A.] dependent upon a juvenile court." We hold that upon adoption of a child in the District of Columbia, and within the meaning of 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J)(i), a child is legally committed to an adoptive parent, and that parent has been appointed (that is, named as a parent), by the Family Court by virtue of the adoption decree. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the Family Court and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with our holding, that is, the Family Court must determine whether F.A. also meets the other requirements for SIJS eligibility under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J)(i) and (ii) (2009 Supp. II) [3]; assuming the adoption is approved, the Family Court should issue the SIJS findings simultaneously with the entrance of the adoption decree.

FACTUAL SUMMARY

The record reveals that F.A., the subject of C.G.H.'s adoption petition, was born on February 5, 1998, in Guatemala. During the early part of his life, F.A. lived with his biological parents, A.V. and R.F.F.A. (" R.F.A." ), and two older siblings in Guatemala. In January 2004, A.V. fled Guatemala to the United States, allegedly because of abusive treatment by R.F.A., an alcoholic. She arranged for her sister and later for a ...


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