Immigration office blamed for delays in processing applications for abused kids



ATLANTA - Children living in Georgia who were abandoned or abused say they now have nowhere to go.

The hold-up, according to immigration attorneys, is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office in Atlanta. Attorneys report significant delays in processing applications for Special Immigrant Juveniles, whom are children that were abandoned, neglected or abused.

"The bottom line is that I've been asking everyone from the field office director down, to do their job," explained Rebeca Salmon, who runs the nonprofit Access to Law Foundation.

Salmon deals almost exclusively in these applications, and says that children are often left in legal limbo for years.

"The law is very clear. This is one of the few immigrant benefits that there is a statutory deadline of 180 days," Salmon told Channel 2's Rachel Stockman.

Salmon filed a writ of mandamus, demanding that the U.S. Immigration Office in Atlanta, process the application of Jose Martinez Rios. Rios crossed the border illegally when he was 11 years old, escaping the violent streets of Mexico after his parents abandoned him.

"I mean I am doing everything that they ask me to do, everything they ask us to do," Rios said. Rios says he has dreams of becoming an engineer, but he cannot work legally, and fears deportation. Rios says he no longer has any connections in Mexico. He has been waiting more than 455 days beyond the federally mandated 180-day time limit.

"I just have been saying do your job. I'm not saying you have to approve him," explained Salmon, when asked about the federal lawsuit.

"It's a systematic problem, it's not a Jose problem," Salmon said.

An official with the Department of Homeland Security would not comment on Rios' case specifically.

Instead, issuing the agency issued a statement, which read: "The Privacy Act precludes us from discussing specific cases. We process all petitions and applications as expeditiously as possible based on the evidence provided and immigration law."

Channel 2 Action News

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