California high court rules for immigrant kids in visa fight

Legal Analysis

The California Supreme Court on Thursday made it easier for some immigrant children who are abused or abandoned by a parent to seek a U.S. visa to avoid deportation in a ruling that advocates said would help thousands of children.

State judges cannot require that children drag an absentee parent living abroad into court in their visa application process, the justices said in a unanimous decision. Immigration rights advocates had warned that such a requirement would make it nearly impossible for the children to fight deportation. That's because courts in California cannot establish authority over a foreign citizen and the parent may want nothing to do with a child claiming abuse, and would refuse to participate in a court proceeding in the U.S., immigration groups said.

The ruling overturned a lower court decision. The California Supreme Court said it was sufficient to adequately notify the absent parent of the court proceedings, but that parent did not have to be a party to the case.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in court documents that the case had implications for a "substantial portion" of the thousands of children who have fled to the U.S. from Central America and Mexico and settled in California. Kristen Jackson, an attorney for the plaintiff in the case, estimated the ruling would affect thousands of children.

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