(CN) – The adult daughter of a Haitian immigrant can’t count on the Child Status Protection Act to grant her the streamlined immigration benefits afforded to most Haitian refugees, the 4th Circuit ruled. The court acknowledged that it “seems odd” that Congress would extend leniency to Haitian refugees, while denying their children the protections enjoyed by many other refugee children.
The underlying case involved the intersection of two laws: the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) and the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998 (HRIFA). The second law generally makes it easier for Haitian refugees to gain asylum in the United States. Those benefits also apply to a “spouse, child or unmarried son or daughter,” provided the adult children show “continuous presence in the United States beginning not later than December 31, 1995.”
Congress enacted the Child Status Protection Act in 2002 to provide relief for children who “age out” of dependent status due to processing delays. Children can “age out” if they were under 21 when their parents applied for immigration benefits, but turned 21 before the government acted on the application. The law treats them as “children” for asylum purposes if their parents filed for asylum when the children were under 21.
Anna Midi’s father received asylum and permanent resident status in 2001. Two months later, Midi moved to the United States and filed for asylum based on her father’s refugee status. She was 9 years old when her father filed for asylum and 21 when she filed her HRIFA application.
Both the immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals determined that Midi failed to meet the continuous presence requirement. The board later concluded that the Child Status Protection Act did not apply to Midi.
The Virginia-based federal appeals court deferred to the BIA’s decision, but not without noting its peculiarity.
“Although it seems odd that Congress would extend special benefits to Haitian refugees while refusing to provide their children with the protections it affords to the children of many other refugees, we cannot find such a reading of CSPA impermissible,” Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote.
“It may be that Congress thought Haitian refugees, by virtue of the streamlined HRIFA admission process, did not face the same processing delays as other asylum seekers,” Motz speculated. “But regardless of Congress’ reason, because we cannot conclude that the BIA has interpreted the statute unreasonably, we must defer to its construction.”