Guardianship of Saul H.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA Guardianship of SAUL H. ___________________________________ SAUL H., Petitioner and Appellant, v. JESUS RIVAS et al., Real Parties in Interest. S271265 Second Appellate District, Division One B308440 Los Angeles County Superior Court 19AVPB00310 August 15, 2022 Justice Groban authored the opinion of the Court, in which Justices Corrigan, Liu, Kruger, Jenkins, and Guerrero concurred. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye filed a concurring opinion. Guardianship of SAUL H. S271265 Opinion of the Court by Groban, J. Saul H. left his native El Salvador at the age of 16, fleeing gang violence. Saul’s parents started sending him to work in the fields in the summers when he was 10 years old. When Saul was 15, his parents made him stop going to school after gang members twice approached him outside of class, attempted to recruit him, and when he refused to join, threatened to kill him and his family. Saul then got a job to help provide food for his family, but a gang member approached him there too, threatening to “disappear” him unless he paid a gang “tax.” Saul eventually left El Salvador on his own, against the wishes of his parents. In the United States, a distant relative took Saul in and agreed to serve as his guardian. Saul petitioned the probate court to issue the predicate findings he needs to support an application to the federal government for special immigrant juvenile status, which allows qualifying immigrants under the age of 21 to seek lawful permanent residence. (Code Civ. Proc., § 155 (section 155); 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J).) In support of his petition, Saul submitted a declaration describing the dangers and deprivations he faces in El Salvador, his parents’ inability to provide for and protect him, and the safety and happiness he has found in his guardian’s care. The probate court denied Saul’s petition. The court determined that because his parents’ inability to provide for and 1 Guardianship of SAUL H. Opinion of the Court by Groban, J. protect him was due to their poverty, Saul could not establish reunification with his parents was “not . . . viable because of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis pursuant to California law.” (§ 155, subd. (b)(1)(B).) The court further declined to find that it would not be in Saul’s “best interest . . . to be returned to” El Salvador. (Id., subd. (b)(1)(C).) It speculated that Saul would not face the same hardships if forced to return because, now 18, he was “no longer a minor” and observed that some Salvadoran youth avoid gang violence and grow up to be professionals. Saul appealed and the Court of Appeal affirmed. (Guardianship of S.H.R. (2021) 68 Cal.App.5th 563, 573–574, 583 (S.H.R.).) We granted review to provide guidance on the statutory requirements governing California courts’ issuance of special immigrant juvenile predicate findings. We conclude the probate court applied an incorrect legal framework in ruling on Saul’s petition. Applying the correct framework, we hold that it is not viable to reunify …

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