FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 7, 2022, 10:00 AM PST






Peter Schey, Executive Director, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, (323) 251-3223,

Jorge Mario Cabrera, Director of Communications, CHIRLA, (562) 243-5559,

Martin Pineda, Central American Resource Center- CARECEN- of Los Angeles, (562) 916-5650,


 LOS ANGELES – Today, March 7, 2022, a coalition of immigrants’ rights organizations and abused, neglected, and abandoned immigrant youth, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles, California, and initiated an advocacy campaign, requesting that the Biden administration promptly issue work permits to tens of thousands of young immigrants with applications pending or approved for Special Immigrant Juvenile visas. Currently, these abused, neglected and abandoned, young immigrants wait for five to six years before being granted work permits. This policy often causes them to go cold, hungry, and homeless, and work underground for unscrupulous employers while waiting to receive employment authorization. It also means that they are often unable to obtain any form of identification or driver’s license, continue their education, or contribute in positive ways to their communities. The current policy also harms the communities in which these young immigrants reside as they are less likely to report crimes, seek medical attention when needed, or report serious labor law violations.

 Statement of Plaintiff Axel Yafeth Mayorga Aguilera: “I came to the United States as an unaccompanied minor in 2018 from Honduras. In my home country I was abandoned and abused by my parents and assaulted and kidnapped by gangs. In 2019, I applied for a Special Immigrant Juvenile visa in the United States but have had extreme difficulty surviving without permission to be employed. I have been unable to find stable housing and often have difficulty buying food to eat or clothes to wear. I hope by participating in the lawsuit I can help myself and thousands of other young immigrants obtain permission to work so we can live safely and securely while our visa applications are being processed.”

  Statement of Plaintiff Hildner Coronado: “Not having a work permit has forced me to take dangerous, low-paying jobs with no chance of improving my life. I have had to give up my studies and have gone through very difficult times in recent years. Without a work permit, it has been hard for me to find a place to live and pay my bills and food. I have even had to neglect my health because I do not have the necessary documents to seek medical services.”

Statement of Plaintiff Rene Gabriel Flores Merino: “My life is extremely difficult because I do not have a work permit. I have been looking for a job for over 10 months. Without a work permit, I cannot obtain a government-issued ID. This made enrolling in college and accessing financial aid extremely difficult. I also have trouble affording transportation and school supplies with no ability to earn any sort of income. I am unable to pay for my own clothing, personal hygiene products, or to afford rent so I must continue to rely on transitional housing shelters with no way of bettering my situation.”

Statement of Peter Schey, Lead Counsel and Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law: “These vulnerable abused, neglected, and abandoned immigrant youth sought freedom from an environment of instability, uncertainty and violence by seeking sanctuary in the United States. Instead, by making them wait five or six years to receive work permits -- and during this time to often go cold, hungry, and homeless -- our country needlessly causes these young immigrants to experience more instability, uncertainty, and abuse at the hands of unscrupulous employers. Such a policy is an affront to Congress’s unmistakable purpose in creating this humanitarian protection. It is incumbent upon the Biden administration to right this terrible wrong.”

 Statement of Claudia Quintana, Staff Attorney at Legal Services for Children: "Thousands of abused, neglected and abandoned young immigrants who have applied for Special Immigrant Juvenile visas are expected to survive on their own for years without the right to work while they wait to become permanent residents. This situation makes them vulnerable to employment offered by criminals and traffickers, thus continuing their victimization in a country where they should be protected. This lawsuit will help young immigrants applying for SIJ visas achieve educational and economic parity with other youth born into more fortunate circumstances. It is a small and just change which aims to even the playing field for these youth who have already endured unimaginable hardships."

 Statement of Rev. Jennifer Gutierrez, Executive Director (Interim) at Plaintiff Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice: “Immigrant children who have applied for Special Immigrant Juvenile Visas are fleeing unimaginable circumstances in their countries of origin. Instead of receiving care and support when they arrive in the US, they are not even allowed to work to obtain the basic essentials they need to survive. This situation benefits no one. Allowing these youth to work is one small change that could help enable their transition from victim to survivor.”

Statement of Ruth Cavillo, Managing Attorney at the Central American Resource Center of Los Angeles: “CARECEN is proud to join as co-counsel in this essential litigation to secure protections for vulnerable immigrant children and youth. CARECEN represents hundreds of SIJS eligible and SIJ status approved youth every year. We have seen firsthand the challenges and trauma that children and youth who qualify for SIJS endure. The inability to obtain work authorization poses severe risks to SIJ classified youth, including homelessness and vulnerability to additional abuse in predatory work settings which goes against the very purpose of the SIJ program. Providing employment authorization to these vulnerable children and youth is the humane thing to do and is critical to their security and well-being.”

Statement of Amanda Alvarado Ford, Executive Director & Immigration Attorney at Plaintiff La Raza Centro Legal, San Francisco: “La Raza Centro Legal San Francisco represents many child applicants for Special Immigrant Juvenile Visas each year.  These young immigrants have endured significant forms of trauma in their home countries, and one way in which the U.S. can treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve, is to promptly issue them the authorization to work.  With valid permission to work, these young immigrants can begin to lift themselves out of poverty, while they await decisions on their visa applications.  Without the capacity to pursue lawful work, the SIJS application offers no humanitarian relief to children during years-long wait periods for the adjudication of their cases.”  

Statement of Maritza R. Agundez, deputy director for legal affairs, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA): “CHIRLA’s Special Immigrant Juvenile clients often have to wait for far too long for applications to be processed,” said “In the meantime, the fact that they are not granted valid work permits exposes them to additional harms both in an exploitative labor market and society at large. Indeed, despite these risks we cannot advise our clients to spend the application fee for a work permit they are unlikely to receive. As we know from our own asylum clients, a work permit while an application is pending is nothing short of life-altering.”

Statement of Myrna Melgar, San Francisco Board of Supervisors, D7: “Immigrant youth who are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile visas have endured the unimaginable and experienced significant challenges to escape violence in their countries and seek sanctuary in the United States. It is unconscionable that their quest for survival and freedom, values that this country says it stands for, is met with the indifference of a bureaucratic process that is failing to protect this vulnerable population. It is absurd to expect that immigrant youth, who have already jumped all the hoops to apply for the Special Immigrant Juvenile visas, are expected to survive without access to income. We are setting them up to fail and to be revictimized by further pushing them into the shadows and into precarious circumstances for their survival.  We must protect them and help their goals to heal and thrive, not further their trauma through this process.  I am proud to support this remarkable effort and will continue to work in collaboration to introduce a resolution at the SF Board of Supervisors to urge the Biden Administration to protect this vulnerable population and issue their visas with a sense of urgency.  They will be an amazing addition to our much-needed workforce at this critical time. It’s a win-win.”