M.F.R.V. v. J.R.M., 031519 MDSCA, 2495-2017

Docket Nº:2495-2017
Opinion Judge:KENNEY, J.
Party Name:M.F.R.V. v. J.R.M., et al.
Judge Panel:Graeff, Beachley, Kenney, James A. Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
Case Date:March 15, 2019
Court:Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
 
FREE EXCERPT

M.F.R.V.

v.

J.R.M., et al.

No. 2495-2017

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

March 15, 2019

Circuit Court for Prince George's County Case No. CAD16-41064

Graeff, Beachley, Kenney, James A. Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

OPINION [*]

KENNEY, J.

M.F.R.V., appellant, filed, in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, a complaint for custody of his younger brother, J.V., and a motion requesting the court to make the necessary "factual findings" to enable J.V. to apply for special immigrant juvenile ("SIJ") status based, in part, on a claim that J.V.'s parents had neglected him. Following an evidentiary hearing, the circuit court granted appellant's complaint for custody but, declaring that appellant had failed to present sufficient evidence of neglect, denied the motion for factual findings related to J.V.'s SIJ status. In this appeal, appellant presents two questions for our review: 1. Did the circuit court err in concluding that appellant had failed to present sufficient evidence of neglect?

2. Did the circuit court, in denying appellant's motion, err in refusing to issue findings related to J.V.'s SIJ status?

As we will explain, we answer appellant's first question in the affirmative and reverse the judgment regarding SIJ status and remand for further proceedings. For that reason, we need not directly address the second question.

BACKGROUND

J.V. was born in Guatemala on July 10, 2000. When he was 15-years-old, his parents, who remained in Guatemala, arranged for his unauthorized emigration to the United States. After coming to the United States and staying in a foster home, J.V. went to live with appellant at appellant's home in Maryland.

In 2016, appellant filed a complaint for custody of J.V. and a Motion for Special Immigrant Juvenile Findings, asking that the circuit court enter an order with factual findings to enable J.V. to petition the United States' government for SIJ status. At that time, J.V. was in "removal proceedings" in the Baltimore Immigration Court.

At the hearing on appellant's custody complaint and motion for SIJ findings, J.V. testified that he was 17-years-old, unmarried, and had been living with his brother in Riverdale, Maryland, after coming to the United States. He explained that, prior to coming to the United States, he had gone to school in Guatemala but he stopped going when he was 14-years-old because "it wasn't easy to go and [his] parents could not afford to pay for the school." No longer in school, he "began working with [his] father in construction." He worked "from 7:00 to 5:00" six days a week; he received no training or safety equipment; and although he was never injured while working, some of his coworkers had been injured.

He left Guatemala for the United States when he was 15-years-old with "some people" whom he did not know guiding him. When asked whether his parents knew that he was leaving, J.V. responded in the affirmative, stating that "they [were] the ones that [sent him] here." Upon entering the United States, J.V. was detained at the border and sent to "a foster home." Eventually, he was sent to live with appellant.

J.V. further testified that, at the time of the hearing, he was in tenth grade at a local public high school with grades of "A's and B's." He planned to graduate and "go to a university." He explained that, were he to return to Guatemala, he would "have to work" and not be able to go to school. For that reason, and because "too many gangs" made it "very dangerous," J.V. did not want to go back to Guatemala. He testified that he felt "safe" with his brother, who provided him with food and clothes. When asked if his parents sent him money, he responded, "No."

Appellant testified that he was 26-years-old; that he had lived with his parents until he "was 16 or 18-years-old"; and that he came to the United States in 2010. After coming to the United States, appellant talked to J.V. on the phone "several times a week." During one of those conversations, J.V. told him that he was not going to school anymore because his parents could "not afford it." Appellant did not want J.V. to go back to Guatemala because "there are no opportunities for schooling."

At the conclusion of the hearing, the circuit court granted appellant's petition for custody but denied his motion for SIJ findings. Regarding its denial of appellant's motion for SIJ findings, the...

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