LOS ANGELES (AP) — The U.S. government has agreed to shelve efforts to deport a 1-year-old Honduran boy whose teenage mother has been allowed to remain in the country and apply for permanent residency.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement had sought to deport Joshua Tinoco since he came to the U.S. last year with his then-17-year-old mother.
The mother and son came after a surge in the number of Central American children arriving at the U.S. border.
Last week, ICE agreed to put on hold the deportation case against Joshua, according to copies of immigration court filings obtained Monday from the boy’s lawyer.
The wide-eyed toddler will be able to seek permanent residency in a few more years.
“I am very happy that the government decided not to waste their resources prosecuting, pursuing a 1-year-old baby,” said Joseph Weiner, Joshua’s lawyer. “This should have been a non-issue.”
Officials have not dropped the boy’s deportation case entirely but it is no longer active in immigration court, Weiner said.
The decision came less than two weeks after The Associated Press published a news story about Joshua’s case.
ICE officials did not comment on the boy’s case. In a statement, the agency said it weighs its enforcement priorities and a person’s history and prospects for obtaining legal status when deciding how to proceed in an immigration case.
Weiner said he did not know why the government changed its position. He also said he had told the court about a technical problem with the deportation paperwork filed for the boy.
Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border last year fleeing gang and domestic violence in Central America. In response, officials sped up immigration court cases to try to stem the growing backlog and deter more people from coming.
Many of the children are applying for asylum or seeking permanent residency under a U.S. government program for abused, neglected and abandoned children. Those who don’t qualify could face the prospect of deportation but it is unclear whether the government will actually try to put them on a plane and send them home.
Joshua’s mother Dunia Bueso, who said she grew up in Honduras largely without her father and with an alcoholic mother who later died, was allowed to apply for permanent residency under the government’s program for neglected children. But she was worried because the government was still trying to deport her son.