In the Matter of the Guardianship of Irma Elisabeth Avila Luis Ramiro Velasquez Avila, Appellant-Petitioner.
from the Jackson Circuit Court The Honorable Richard W.
Poynter, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 36C01-1803-GU-9
Attorney for Appellant Thomas J.O. Moore Indianapolis,
Indiana, Alexander E. Budzenski Indianapolis, Indiana
OF THE CASE
Appellant-Petitioner, Ramiro Velasquez Avila (Avila), appeals
the trial court's Order appointing him guardian of his
minor sister, Irma Elisabeth Avila Luis (Irma), because the
trial court refused to articulate special immigrant juvenile
findings in accordance with 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J).
We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand with
Avila presents us with one issue on appeal, which we restate
as: Whether the trial court was required to make findings on
Irma's special immigrant juvenile status in accordance
with 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J).
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Irma, born on May 20, 2000, in Chisec, Guatemala, is a native
and citizen of Guatemala. Irma's father, Hilario
Velasquez de la Cruz, died when she was three years old.
Until 2016, Irma lived with her mother, Julia Avila Luis
(Mother), in Guatemala. In 2016, Mother became unable to
provide care for Irma. She no longer could afford to feed
Irma, send her to school, and provide her with medical care.
Mother put Irma on a bus to the United States.
After several weeks of travelling alone to the
Mexican-American border, Irma entered the United States and
was detained by immigration officials and taken into federal
custody. Eventually, the federal government released Irma
into the custody of her brother, Avila, who resides in
Seymour, Indiana. Since her release from federal custody,
Irma has lived with her brother in Indiana. She is studying
English and attending Seymour High School in the tenth grade.
Avila meets Irma's basic needs and supports her
financially and emotionally.
On March 2, 2018, Avila petitioned the trial court to appoint
him as guardian of his sister and requested the trial court
to make certain findings necessary for Irma to seek
classification as a special immigrant juvenile before the
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in
accordance with 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J). On May 11,
2018, the trial court conducted a hearing on Avila's
petition. During the hearing, the trial court felt "very
uncomfortable making those kinds of findings."
(Transcript p. 17). The court stated that it had "a real
problem" because the federal government "[t]hrowing
it on me to make factual findings for them [is]
irritat[ing]." (Tr. p. 20). "It should be made by
[f]ederal officials. They're the one that makes the
decision of who comes in the United States, who leave the
United States, not me. And that's why I have a problem
with this . . .. Immigration [j]udges are [i]mmigration
[j]udges for a reason. That's their decision." (Tr.
pp. 21-22). On May 17, 2018, the trial court issued its
findings of facts and Order, appointing Avila as guardian of
Irma and finding, in pertinent part:
6. Irma's mother, [Mother], is a native of Guatemala.
According to [I.C. §] 31-21-2-2, "abandoned"
means left without provision for reasonable and necessary
care or supervision. Accordingly, Irma's mother neglected
and abandoned Irma by allowing her to travel across several
7. Irma's father, , was a native of Guatemala. He died
on October 6, 2003, and abandoned Irma before she was born.
He was never a part of her life and passed ...