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Law Professors Take on Flawed USCIS Policy

Yesterday, 23 law professors  were granted permission to participate as amici curiae in a class action lawsuit contesting a recent U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy change affecting minors in New York who seek Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).  This policy change has resulted in SIJS denials for immigrant children who would otherwise qualify for SIJS based on well-established state and federal law.

SIJS is a form of immigration relief that provides unmarried children under age 21 with a path to citizenship if they can provide a determination from a state juvenile court that they are dependent on the court or are committed by the court to the custody of a State entity or an individual; that reunification with one or both parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis under state law; and that it is not in their “best interest” to return to their country of origin.

Amici law professors filed a brief in support of plaintiffs, a class of immigrant juveniles to whom USCIS denied SIJS because they were between the ages of 18 and 21 when the New York Family Court (“Family Court”) issued their SIJS findings, even though applications for juvenile immigrants between those ages had previously and routinely been granted such status.  Specifically, USCIS is claiming now that the Family Court lacks jurisdiction over minors 18 and above to make decisions regarding their care and custody or reunification with their parents.

The law professors’ amicus brief begins by providing an overview of the Family Court’s jurisdiction as defined by the relevant state statutes.  The brief demonstrates that not only do the relevant state statutes empower the Family Court with broad discretion in dealing with all family law issues, but the Family Court also has authority under state law to make each of the individual SIJS findings.  Next,  the brief addresses the various types of family court proceedings in which the New York Family Court has the power to make decisions regarding the custody and care of minors ages 18 to 21, including guardianship, which is akin to lawful custody.  Finally, the brief describes the Family Court’s authority to reunify minors with their parents, as well as its authority to enjoin such reunification for minors between the age of 18 and 21.

© 2020 Proskauer Rose LLP.


About this Author

Julia Ansanelli, Litigation attorney  in New York, Proskauer Law firm

Julia Ansanelli earned her bachelor's degree from New York University and her J.D. from Touro Law Center, where she graduated as valedictorian of her division. During law school, she served as case note editor of the Touro Law Review and vice president of Touro's Latin American Law School Association. Julia also interned for the Honorable Magistrate Kathleen Tomlinson in the Eastern District of New York.


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Daniel Werb, Proskauer Rose, litigation attorney

Daniel Werb is an associate in the Litigation Department.

Prior to joining Proskauer, Dan was a judicial intern for the Honorable Eric N. Vitaliano of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. At Columbia Law School, he served as an Articles Editor of the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts and was an extern at Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

David A Picon, Financial Services Attorney, Proskauer, Law Firm

David A. Picon is a seasoned advocate for financial services firms, as well as public and private companies. He is a partner in the Litigation Department and a trial lawyer who has led dozens of trials and arbitration hearings, primarily for financial services firms. David’s practice covers a range of matters, including complex securities issues, fraudulent transfer actions, alleged Ponzi schemes, and contract and employment-related disputes. He is also co-chair of the Financial Services Group and a member of the Corporate Defense Group.