Leadership of the California State Legislature Applauds State Supreme Court Decision to Protect Immigrant Children from Deportation
SACRAMENTO – The leadership of the California State Legislature today applauded a decision handed down by the California State Supreme Court in the case of BIANKA M v. SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY. The ruling reversed a judgment by the Court of Appeal and lower courts in the case of a 10-year old Honduran girl who sought to be reunited under Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) with her mother, who had previously moved to the United States.
“The unanimous opinion of the California Supreme Court reaffirms what California has been working to do for a long time – protect children from unsafe conditions and prevent families in our immigrant communities from being torn apart,” said Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins. “Today’s decision is just another example of California’s leadership and commitment to help working families.”
“We strongly applaud today’s decision by the Supreme Court in Bianka because it reinforces California’s policy of welcoming immigrant children who were abandoned, abused, or neglected in their countries of origin,” said California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. “We filed an Amicus Brief in this case, in part, as a guiding message to lower courts so that they may faithfully carry out our policies in their decisions.”
“The lower courts misunderstood and misapplied Sec 155 of the Civil Code in denying Bianka’s request,” said Senator Ben Hueso, Chair of the California Legislative Caucus. “As the architects and sponsors of this code section, we wanted the Supreme Court to have a clear understanding of our intent. We think they got it right in today’s decision and are hopeful that we’ve removed a roadblock to family reunification.”
At the age of 10, petitioner Bianka M., a native of Honduras, had entered the United States unaccompanied and without prior authorization. After a brief detention by federal authorities, she was reunited with her mother, who had left Honduras for the United States many years before. In a family court action naming her mother as the respondent, Bianka asked for an order placing her in her mother’s sole custody. She also asked the court to issue findings that would enable her to seek “special immigrant juvenile” status under federal immigration law—a classification that permits immigrant children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one or both parents to apply for lawful permanent residence while remaining in the United States. The Superior Court denied Bianka’s requests, concluding it could not issue either a custody order or findings relevant to special immigrant juvenile status unless Bianka first established a basis for exercising personal jurisdiction over her father and joined him as a party to the action. The Court of Appeal had upheld the ruling.
The Supreme Court granted review “to determine whether the superior court properly required the child’s nonresident, noncustodial parent to be joined as a party in her parentage action seeking special immigrant juvenile findings.”
They found that “the action may…proceed regardless of whether the court believes it was filed primarily for the purpose of obtaining the protections from abuse, neglect, or abandonment that federal immigration law provides.” The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Senator Kevin de León, at the time President pro Tem of the California State Senate; Anthony Rendon, Speaker of the California State Assembly; Senator Toni Atkins, at the time Speaker Emeritus of the California State Assembly, now Senate President pro Tem; Senator Ben Hueso, Chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus; Senator Ricardo Lara, former Chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus; were the signatories of the Amicus Brief on behalf of Bianka M.