In the Nick of Time for LIJC Child Client

Gina Amato and student with client
LIJC Faculty Gina Amato Lough and student, Thomas Tai '21, with LIJC client

A vital step towards obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) for an undocumented minor—which leads to becoming a lawful permanent resident—is proving in state court that the minor’s reunification with a parent is not viable due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. That’s exactly what LIJC students Thomas Tai (’21) and Leila Duntley (’21) with Adjunct Professor Gina Amato Lough prepared for months to accomplish for client RJ. Because of complex questions relating to service on RJ’s father, who had successfully evaded numerous service attempts, the judge required two hearings, and significant briefing and oral argument by the students. With the second hearing scheduled for January 5, 2021, the stakes were high: on January 6, 2021, RJ would turn 18, aging her out of the court’s jurisdiction, and her chance at SIJS. The team’s ceaseless work including during the semester break, however, achieved the result the client needed. On RJ’s last day as a minor, the judge both granted the requested orders and warmly praised the zealous advocacy and high-quality legal work of the student attorneys. "One of the most rewarding aspects of clinical work is helping put our clients on the path to legal status and ultimately citizenship,” observes Tai. Professor Amato adds, “I am incredibly proud of Thomas and Leila for their tireless advocacy on behalf of our client. Due to their hard work and determination, RJ is now on a clear path to lawful permanent residency, which will change the trajectory of her life.”