A collaborative partnership to improve the health and education of immigrant and refugee children.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently named CCA as a recipient of their prestigious “Fresh Ideas” grant, enabling the Center to undertake this important project to help Hartford’s vulnerable refugee population.
Chosen as one of only ten nationwide recipients out of a pool of one thousand applicants, CCA is partnering with Hartford’s Jubilee House to improve the healthcare and education of Hartford’s growing immigrant population.
The power of this new endeavor lies in our partnerships. Center for Children’s Advocacy partners with Jubilee House, a Hartford-based refugee assistance center; Connecticut Children’s Medical Center; Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center; Charter Oak Health Center; Community Health Services; and the Hartford Public Schools.
Eight percent of Hartford children have been in the United States for less than 3 years. Fifty two percent live in homes where English is not the primary language. Together with our partners, we will work with this highly vulnerable population to address critical issues that improve health and educational outcomes for children at risk.
-Partners, Immigrants and Refugees New Arrivals Advocacy Project
Baya*, born in Nigeria, lost her mother when she was only six months old.
Baya was cared for by her maternal grandmother, but when she was eight, her grandmother died and her father, whom she had never met, arranged to bring her to his home in the U.S. to take over her care.
Within a short time, both her father and stepmother were physically abusing her.
Following custom, other members of the Nigerian community intervened and assumed Baya’s care. Baya’s father turned over her documents and ceased all support and contact with her.
Baya always assumed that there was no way she could get legal status in this country and never sought any assistance to address the matter. She became an exceptional student, earning money during high school by winning writing competitions, becoming valedictorian of her class, and receiving a full, private scholarship to a prestigious university.
Just before her 18th birthday, Baya mentioned her situation to someone in the international student office at her university, who referred her to the United States Commission on Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). The USCRI thought she might qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status and referred her to the Center for Children’s Advocacy’s Teen Legal Advocacy Clinic.
CCA determined that Baya clearly qualified for commitment to DCF, a prerequisite for SIJ status (which leads to green card). Although she had been functionally adopted by another couple, she was never legally adopted, and she was inarguably abused and abandoned by her only living legal guardian.
Although Baya had a full college scholarship, she had no money for clothes, no housing outside of the school year or during holidays, and was subject to constant risk of deportation to a country where she knows no one.
Because of the short time before her 18th birthday, CCA immediately filed a neglect petition in juvenile court and got a hearing date. (Under Connecticut law, children can only be committed to DCF before they turn 18, but once committed can remain voluntarily in DCF care provided they are in college. Because federal immigration law deems children minors until they turn 21, this leaves a three-year window for SIJ petitions.)
In conversations prior to the hearing, DCF told CCA that they would oppose Baya’s commitment because she was too close to her 18th birthday, because she had not really been neglected, and because she was doing too well on her own to need the Department’s help. None of these arguments has any basis in law.
At the hearing, DCF raised only a jursidictional argument, positing that the action should have been brought in the state where Baya last lived before attending college. In fact, the jurisdictional rule on which DCF relied did not apply to Baya, and the judge ruled to commit her to DCF’s care just two days before her eighteenth birthday.
CCA’s legal advocacy means that Baya will receive DCF support until she graduates, and she can now file for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and lawful permanent residence in the United States.
* name and descriptive information have been changed to preserve our client’s confidentiality
Addressing the Legal Issues Impacting Refugee and Immigrant Families
Center for Health and Health Care in Schools Mr. Fred Tsao presents information on legal issues facing immigrants in the US including legal immigration categories, how immigrants can become citizens, sponsorship, public benefit eligibility, the impact of 1996 Welfare Reform, rules on public charge, and constitutional rights of illegal immigrants. Mr. Tsao is the Policy Director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
ELL Students Eligible for Bilingual Programs, by Language and School,
for 2009-2010 Bilingual Grant
Connecticut State Department of Education