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Name: In re Christian H.
Case #: A141758
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 06/29/2015

Juvenile court erred by ordering delinquent minor placed with his mother in Honduras, while also finding that returning the minor to Honduras would not be in his best interest. The minor, who had entered the country illegally after a prior deportation, admitted he possessed an illegal drug as alleged in a juvenile wardship petition. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) placed a hold on the minor. Following a contested dispositional hearing, the juvenile court granted probation and ordered the minor to live with his mother in Honduras. In response to a defense motion, the court made the findings required to allow the minor to apply for special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) status, which would provide relief from deportation. The minor appealed the disposition. Held: Reversed. Subject to certain limitations, the federal detainer did not limit the trial court’s discretion in selecting the appropriate placement for the minor. (See Gov. Code, § 7282.5.) The trial court is authorized to return a nonresident juvenile offender to his parents who reside in a foreign country if it determines that this is in the best interest of the minor. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 738.) While its order was authorized by statute, the juvenile court nonetheless abused its discretion because, in granting the minor’s motion for findings in support of his SIJ petition, it expressly determined that it was not in the minor’s best interest to return to Honduras. In addition, the court made factual findings that the minor’s father had abandoned the family and that his mother could not support him. As such, the court could not also make the required finding under Welfare and Institutions Code section 202 that returning the minor to Honduras would be in his best interest. Because these directly conflicting findings cannot be reconciled, the dispositional order was reversed.