TROUBLE FOR SIJS IN VIRGINIA? Court Of Appeals Says No Jurisdiction to Make SIJ Findings — Canales v. Torres Orellana 

Key Quote:

“For the foregoing reasons, we hold that the circuit court did not err when it found that it lacked jurisdiction to make separate SIJ findings of fact. The Code of Virginia does not provide such authority and 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J) does not in any way alter the jurisdiction of Virginia courts. Rather, it simply allows immigrant juveniles to use certain state court judgments and supporting factual findings—such as those made under the best interests analysis of Code § 20-124.3—to support a petition for SIJ status with the Department of Homeland Security. Federal authorities then determine whether the state court findings are sufficient to meet the requirements of the SIJ statute. Further, the circuit court did not err when it crossed out the specific SIJ findings in the custody order, both because the circuit court was permitted to apply only the provisions of the Code of Virginia to the custody determination and because the unappealed factual finding that there was insufficient evidence to prove Father’s abandonment is binding on this Court in this appeal. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.”


Although I was involved, in one of my prior incarnations, in the initial phases of SIJ legislation, I am currently not enough of an expert to say what the exact effect of this ruling will be in future SIJ cases in Virginia. It doesn’t sound good. During my tenure in the Arlington Immigration Court, I took many Virginia cases off the docket after an SIJ petition was granted by USCIS. Perhaps someone who has more expertise in SIJs can comment or point readers to a practice advisory on the impact of this case.