California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Third Division
Supreme Court publication order 1/29/14
Original proceeding; petition for a writ of mandate to challenge an order of the Superior Court of Orange County, Nick A. Dourbetas, Judge. Super. Ct. No. DL039927 Petition granted.
Lina F. Somait; Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Inc. and Martin Gauto for Petitioner.
No appearance by Respondent.
No appearance by Real Party in Interest.
RYLAARSDAM, ACTING P. J.
Public Counsel Law Center, Martha Matthews; Legal Services for Children, Abigail Trillin; Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Angie Junck; University of California, Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, Sameer M. Ashar; Southwestern Law School Immigrant Law Clinic, Andrea Ramos; Youth Law Center and Alice Bussiere as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner, upon request of the Court of Appeal.
Office of Immigration Litigation DCS, Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the United States Department of Justice Civil Division, Elizabeth J. Stevens, Assistant Director, Melissa S. Liebman, Trial Attorney as Amicus Curiae, upon request of the Court of Appeal.
Eighteen-year-old Eddie E. petitions for unopposed writ relief after respondent court denied his request to make all necessary factual findings to enable him to apply for classification as a Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) under the Immigration and Nationality Act, title 8 United States Code section 1101(a)(27)(J), which provides “abused, neglected, and abandoned unaccompanied minors... a process that allows them to become permanent legal residents.” (In re Y.M. (2012) 207 Cal.App.4th 892, 915 (Y.M.).) To be entitled to SIJ status, the minor must have, among other things, “been declared dependent on a juvenile court located in the United States or [be one] 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....” (8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J)(i).) Respondent court found petitioner did not qualify as a dependent because he had “been declared a ward of this court under [Welfare and Institutions Code] section 602” (all further statutory references are to this code unless otherwise stated) and did not make any of the other required findings for SIJ status. Petitioner contends this was error and seeks a writ of mandate ordering the respondent court to make the remaining findings of fact necessary to determine eligibility for SIJ status. We agree and grant the petition for writ of mandate.
Petitioner was born in Mexico in February 1995. He was brought to the United States by his mother when he was five years old, has never returned to Mexico. After abandoning him three years later, his mother died in September 2010.
In 2011, respondent court declared petitioner a ward of the court under section 602 after finding true allegations he had unlawfully taken a vehicle, resisted or obstructed a public officer, and was guilty of hit and run with property damage. It committed petitioner to the care of the probation department for placement in juvenile hall for eight days, with credit for eight days served, and thereafter to be released to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In 2012, petitioner’s probation was transferred to San Bernardino County for several months after he was placed in a foster home in that county. He was transferred back to an Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter in Orange County later that year.
At a hearing in December 2012, petitioner’s immigration attorney, Martin Gauto, made a special appearance to request respondent court make factual findings to allow petitioner to file a petition for SIJ status. After Gauto filed supporting memoranda of points and authorities, a hearing was held in January 2013 during which the district attorney declined to be heard. Respondent court found petitioner did not meet the first requirement for SIJ status, that he be an immigrant “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 ...