B.R.C.M. appealed a summary dismissal of his Petition for Dependency. The Third District Court of Appeals (Third DCA) affirmed and Judge Salter filed a lengthy dissent.
B.R.C.M. was born in Guatemala, abandoned by his father at birth and abandoned by his mother when he was four years old. He was raised by his grandmother until he was fourteen years old and she was too old to provide for his care. Because he had no other relatives to care for him and feared he would be assaulted or forced to join a local gang, he traveled illegally into the United States with some friends. After turning himself in to border patrol, he was placed with his godmother in Miami.
The Third DCA reiterated that the purpose of the dependency provisions in Chapter 39 is “to provide services to children who are truly (emphasis in the decision) abandoned, abused or neglected” rather than facilitate the pursuit of Special Juvenile Immigrant Status. The Third DCA found that the abandonment of B.R.C.M. by his parents and resulting neglect by failing to make arrangements for his care were both too remote in time to be a basis for dependency. There was no allegation that B.R.C.M. was abused and the godmother was meeting all of the child’s needs.
Dissent: Judge Salter argued in his lengthy dissent that the instant case warrants individualized consideration and adjudication rather than summary denial. Salter asserted the department should investigate the claims in these types of petitions and the trial courts should hold evidentiary hearings rather than denying the petitions outright. If petitions fail to state a prima facie case, Salter argued the petitioner should be permitted to amend the petition. In the alternative, Salter argued that the issue central to these cases is of great public importance and should be certified to the Supreme Court.
After completing a fourteen page historical analysis of similar cases from 2005 to the present, Salter noted a shift from evidentiary hearings and appeals to the Department treating these dependency petitions from immigrant juveniles as not warranting of investigation with the trial court (and the District Circuit Courts) finding them appropriate for summary denial.
Salter then turned to H.S.P. v. J.K., 121 A.3d 849, 860 (N.J. 2015), where New Jersey recently set forth the following procedure for handling these type of cases:
In an effort to ensure that factual findings issues by New Jersey courts provide USCIS with the necessary information to determine whether a given alien satisfies the eligibility criteria for SIJ status we instruct courts of the Family Part to make separate findings as to abuse, neglect and abandonment with regard to both legal parents of an alien juvenile . . . Regardless of the outcome of [the analysis of one parent], the court should next conduct the same analysis with regard to the child’s other legal parent.
Salter urged Florida to adopt a similar procedure including individual investigation and evidentiary hearings.