Martinez v. Sanchez

HEADNOTE: Oscar Orlando Martinez v. Silvia Trujillo Sanchez, No. 61, September Term, 2017 SPECIAL IMMIGRANT JUVENILE STATUS—8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J)— STATE COURT PREDICATE ORDER—FIRST-LEVEL FACTUAL FINDINGS. Father filed petition for custody of Daughter and for declaration that she is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile (“SIJ”) status. Mother was served but did not participate in proceedings. Daughter was born in El Salvador in 2000 and was abandoned by Mother when she was three. Father later moved to the United States for employment and to escape gang activity. Daughter crossed into the United States in Texas in 2015 and was taken into custody by border patrol and released to Father. She has been living with Father and Stepmother in Hyattsville and attending school. At close of evidentiary hearing, court granted custody to Father and granted Daughter SIJ status. Father submitted order that included first-level factual findings. Court crossed out proposed factual findings but signed order containing conclusions that Daughter had been abandoned by Mother and that it was not in Daughter’s best interest to return to El Salvador. Father noted appeal, contending that the court’s order was deficient in that, notwithstanding that it stated conclusions necessary for a finding of eligibility for SIJ status, it did not set forth specific first-level factual findings to support those conclusions, and therefore could be rejected by the USCIS when Daughter applies for SIJ status. Held: Order vacated and case remanded for court to make specific factual findings in predicate order. The state court’s role in a SIJ matter is to make factual findings in a predicate order that the juvenile then submits to the USCIS in petitioning the federal government for SIJ status. The USCIS may reject a petition if the predicate order is a mere template that gives conclusions but does not make factual findings on which the conclusions are based. All indications in this case are that the trial court credited the testimony by Father and Daughter, but failed to include specific factual findings in its predicate order on the mistaken belief that that was not necessary. Case remanded for the court to issue an adequate predicate order and, if it deems necessary, hold an additional hearing. Circuit Court for Prince George’s County Case No. CAD16-17018 REPORTED IN THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS OF MARYLAND No. 61 September Term, 2017 ______________________________________ OSCAR ORLANDO MARTINEZ v. SILVIA TRUJILLO SANCHEZ ______________________________________ Eyler, Deborah S., Kehoe, Battaglia, Lynne A. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ. ______________________________________ Opinion by Eyler, Deborah S., J. ______________________________________ Filed: March 1, 2018 Oscar Orlando Martinez, the appellant, noted this appeal from an order of the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County granting him custody of his daughter, Jenniffer Elizabeth Martinez-Trujillo (“Jenniffer”), and declaring her eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile (“SIJ”) status, under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J).1 Silvia Trujillo Sanchez, Jenniffer’s mother, the appellee, has not participated in any of the proceedings in this case. Martinez presents one question for review, which we have reworded slightly: 1 8 U.S.C. section 1101(a)(27)(J) states: (J) ...

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