Florida Supreme Court to immigrant teens: just go away already

florida_supreme_court_building_2011The Florida Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the cases of immigrant children pending appeal should be dismissed as moot when they turn 18, even if the lower court erred when the child was still a minor and even if the error prevents the child from applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile status.

In October of 2014, OICL, a 17-year-old immigrant child in Florida, brought a petition for dependency alleging that his parents had abandoned him and that he had no legal custodian. The trial court, Judge James L. Martz, denied the petition in December 2014 and the matter was appealed to the Fourth DCA. The Fourth DCA ruled against the child and the matter was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. FLSCT accepted the case in August 2015.

OICL turned 18 in January 2015.

After 13 months, FLSCT ruled that the matter became moot when OICL turned 18. The Court declined to find that the ancillary benefits of a dependency petition (including immigration status) were sufficient to defeat mootness. The Court also declined to find that the matter was capable of repetition yet evading review. Justices Polston, Quince, Canady, and Lewis were in the majority. Justices Labarga, Pariente, and Perry dissented.

The practical result is that any child petitioning for dependency close to their 18th birthday will not be able to seek appellate review. A judge ruling on those petitions will certainly know that when setting the cases, weighing the evidence, and making a decision. Immigrant children of a certain age have just had their right of access to a fair court system severely curtailed.

On August 16, 2016 the Florida Supreme Court accepted a second SIJ case for review, BRCM. In this case, the petitioner is well under 18. The issue in BRCM, and many of these cases, is that judges have become emboldened to sweep immigrant children out of their courtrooms as quickly as possible. In the case of BRCM, the hearing lasted only 8 minutes before the judge had ruled to dismiss the petition — no notice, no witnesses, no trial.

The Florida Supreme Court has the opportunity to clarify that all people who come before the courts are entitled to a fair and impartial hearing, and that violations of due process will not be tolerated just because of the age and immigration status of the petitioner. If it will not reconsider this harmful ruling, the Florida Supreme Court should direct lower courts to accept these cases for certiorari review, or order expedited briefing schedules to ensure further miscarriages of justice do not occur.

Florida Child Welfare Stats for August 2016: the expansion continues

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The August numbers are out and it appears the Carroll expansion is slowing down, but continuing. OOHC numbers were slightly higher than projected this month, which may be due to lower discharges during the summer holidays. Though the line is flattening, removals are expected to continue to outpace discharges for the foreseeable future and only two regions are contracting.

The charts below show the numbers for each region, sorted from most expanding to most contracting. For more details, check the Dashboard.

 

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The Northwest Region is expected to continue its expansion, with OOHC and IHC numbers coming in close to projected values. Relative and non-relative placements are expected to continue to expand, with all other placement types remaining steady. Removals are expected to largely outpace discharges, suggesting a continued expansion.
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The Northeast Region appeared to be experiencing a slowdown to its expansion, but there is some evidence this month that the expansion will continue. OOHC came in higher than expected (projected 3348, actual 3431), while IHC reduced faster than expected (projected 1840, actual 1759). Relative placements are expected to continue to expand, while other placement types remain steady. Removals are expected to largely outpace discharges, suggesting the current expansion will continue.
sc-oohc-ihc
The Suncoast Region continued its expansion this month, with OOHC and IHC numbers in line with predicted levels. Removals and discharges are highly seasonal in this region, but removals are expected to continue to outpace discharges except in the heavy adoption months of November and June, suggesting the expansion will continue.
cent-oohc-ihc
The Central Region is experiencing a period of slowing expansion. Its OOHC numbers are lower than expected this month (projected 5203, actual 5189), and it reduced IHC by more than expected (projected 3078, actual 2984). Relative placements appear to have peaked in February 2016 and have been on the decline since. All other placement types are steady or increasing. Removals are expected to continue to outpace discharges, suggesting that the expansion, while slowing, will continue.
s-oohc-ihc
The Southern Region continued its contraction this month, hitting projections for both OOHC and IHC. Discharges in this region are highly seasonal, but expected to continue to equal or slightly outpace removals. The current contraction is expected to continue.
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The Southeast Region’s contractions appears to be continuing, with OOHC and IHC numbers coming in close to projected values. Contractions appear most prominent in family foster placements. Discharges are highly seasonal in the Southeast Region, but are expected to equal or outpace removals.