Maureen Power Wilkerson ’76J.D. | August 5, 2020
In the heat of a July afternoon during the throes of the pandemic, my backyard serves as a location for a virtual hearing of the Family Division of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland. After postponements since May due to COVID-19, the case became one of the court’s first held online.
My clients are a 36-year-old woman and her 20-year-old daughter. They are from El Salvador. Neither of them has legal status in the United States. Our case pertained to the possibility of the daughter attaining a Special Immigrant Juvenile classification under the Immigration and Nationality Act — a path to eventual U.S. citizenship. For a child under age 21 to be granted that status, the law requires proof of abuse, abandonment or neglect that prevents them from returning home.
I doubted that mother, daughter and myself could maintain the social distance necessary in my small home office. The covered patio in my backyard would be the best alternative. A six-foot table was set up with chairs at both ends. I felt that we were being prudent and compliant.
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