California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Third Division
Original proceedings; petition for a writ of mandate to challenge an order of the Superior Court of Orange County, No. DL039927 Nick A. Dourbetas, Judge.
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Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Lindsay Toczylowski and Rachel Prandini for Petitioner.
No appearance for Respondent.
No appearance for Real Party in Interest.
Petitioner Eddie E., an undocumented immigrant, petitions for a writ of mandate to overturn the court’s refusal to make favorable findings under the Immigration and Nationality Act, title 8 United States Code section 1101(a)(27)(J) (section 1101(a)(27)(J) or the SIJ statute), which findings are a prerequisite to him applying for special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) status, a path to citizenship. We issued an order to real party in interest to show cause why a writ of mandate should not issue.
SIJ status cannot be granted unless a state court finds, among other things, that a petitioner cannot reunify with “1 or both” of his parents due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and that it would not be in the petitioner’s best interest to return to his home country. (§ 1101(a)(27)(J)(i)-(ii).) The trial court refused to make either finding. It found that even though his mother (mother) abandoned him, he was living with his father (father) and thus reunification was possible with his father. It also held that mother’s subsequent death meant petitioner’s inability to reunify with her was due to death, not abandonment. It further found that a “fresh start” in Mexico would be good for petitioner, and thus returning him to Mexico was in petitioner’s best interest.
We disagree. “[One] or both” is disjunctive, and petitioner proved he was abandoned by his mother, satisfying that condition. True, mother died, but that only made the abandonment permanent. We also disagree with the court’s analysis of petitioner’s best interest. The evidence shows beyond dispute that it is not in petitioner’s best interest to return to Mexico. Accordingly, we grant the petition.
Petitioner was born in Mexico. When he was five years old, his mother brought him and his two older siblings to the United States, apparently without documentation, to reunify with his father. Petitioner has never returned to Mexico.
Petitioner’s mother left the family when he was eight years old. Mother never returned, provided financial support, or even attempted to contact the family after she left. Mother died approximately seven years after she left.
Petitioner continued living with his father, but lived a hard life. His father had diabetes and drank excessively, which further exacerbated his diabetes. Though father never abused petitioner, his condition made it hard to find work and provide for the family. As a result of his inability to pay rent, the family was frequently evicted. Petitioner lived in several cities in California and in Phoenix, Arizona. As a result of moving around so much, petitioner rarely went to school, and never attended any school for more than one year.
In April 2011, a juvenile delinquency case was filed against petitioner leading to a finding that he had unlawfully taken a vehicle, was guilty of hit and run causing property damage, and resisted or obstructed a public officer. Petitioner was declared a ward of the court pursuant to Welfare and ...