Hughes Hubbard & Reed secured adoption and legal status eligibility for a 10-year-old boy who fled El Salvador to escape gang violence and join his mother and stepfather in suburban Washington, DC.

On March 2, 2012, Judge Cathy Serrette of Prince George’s County Circuit Court granted both the stepfather’s petition for adoption and the boy’s motion for factual findings of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) eligibility. SIJS is governed by a special provision under US immigration law for youths who cannot be reunited with one or both parents because of abuse, abandonment or neglect. Hughes Hubbard will now seek permanent residency for the boy from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

According to Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), this is the first case in Prince George’s County to link an adoption to SIJS.

In El Salvador, the boy’s life was in turmoil. His biological father was a member of the notorious MS-13 gang who reacted violently when the boy’s mother tried to end their relationship; the father was later murdered. The mother left the boy in the care of relatives and fled to the United States out of fear of the father’s threats. The relatives were also targeted by MS-13, resulting in two of the boy’s aunts fleeing the country and one of the boy’s cousins being kidnapped.

The cousin escaped from her kidnappers, but the growing dangers compelled the family to send both to the United States in early 2010. US authorities detained the two at the US-Mexico border, holding the boy until his grandmother flew from Virginia to get him.

The boy’s mother married a permanent resident after arriving in the US Her husband wanted to adopt the boy.

In December 2011, Hughes Hubbard petitioned the Prince George’s County Circuit Court to grant adoption to the stepfather and make the necessary factual findings to permit the boy’s application for SIJS. The case was heard in March and the firm succeeded on both fronts.

Dan Solomon, Adam Cearley and Derick Sohn worked on this matter under the supervision of John Wood.