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Newsday Features Youth Advocacy Clinic in Story on Immigrant Youth in Family Court

Newsday spoke with Professor Theo Liebmann, director of Hofstra Law’s Youth Advocacy Clinic, and third-year students Kristy Candela, Dana Dohn and Ivy Waisbord for a Nov. 3, 2015, article on access to justice for immigrant youth.

Students in the Youth Advocacy Clinic learn about client advocacy through representing youth in special immigrant juvenile matters and child maltreatment cases.

They advocate on behalf of youth in the Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Family Courts, as well as before immigration court judges and hearing officers in Manhattan.

Professor Liebmann, who last month was named co-chair of New York State’s new Advisory Council on Immigration Issues in Family Court, comments in the article on the significance of the council for clients of the Youth Advocacy Clinic.

Candela, Dohn and Waisbord describe why Family Court cases are critical for the young immigrants they represent, many of whom are unaccompanied minors.

New York courts create panel to study immigrants’ legal access
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Family courts decide on issues that affect children, parents and spouses, in cases ranging from custody and visitation to guardianship requests and hearings on domestic violence.

“The advisory council is essentially a body that will be proposing rules or issuing memos in response to concerns by litigants, by the judges and by the attorneys that are related to immigration issues in the family court,” said Liebmann, whose clinic helps minors petitioning to stay in the United States.

Family Court decisions can help or harm pending immigration cases, he said.

“For our clients,” Liebmann added, “you are talking about enabling them to remain here, to not have to go back to their countries, where they came from to escape real violence.”

Hofstra law students in Liebmann’s clinic said they have come to understand firsthand why Family Court cases are critical for immigrants.

Kristy Candela, 25, a third-year law student from Bellmore, said she and her classmates have helped immigrant kids looking to “get a guardian here to take care of them.”

“Anything that will help streamline the process and make it easier for these clients, who’ve already been through so much . . . is great,” she said.

Dana Dohn, 24, a third-year law student from Warren, Ohio, said much is at stake for the immigrant minors, who often are teenagers.

“They’ve witnessed horrific gang violence,” Dohn said. “They’ve seen people be killed in front of them. They are frequently recruited, many of them are gang-raped repeatedly and abducted and kidnapped, and they are abandoned by at least one of their parents.”

“These kids have just been through the worst of the worst,” agreed Ivy Waisbord, 25, a third-year law student from Philadelphia. “But they are still so young and, when we get through this process, it allows them to have a new beginning.”

Read the full article (subscription required).