Prof. Theo Liebmann Serves as Co-Counsel With Proskauer Team in Filing SDNY Amicus Brief on Behalf of Abused and Neglected Children

Theo Liebmann, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Programs

Professor Theo Liebmann, director of Clinical Programs and attorney-in-charge of the Youth Advocacy Clinic, served as co-counsel with a team from Proskauer Rose in the filing of an amicus brief regarding new practices by the Department of Homeland Security toward abused and neglected children.

Professor Liebmann and co-counsel David Picon of Proskauer drafted and submitted the brief on behalf of New York Family Law professors, including Hofstra Law professors Barbara Stark and Andrew Schepard, director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law, and former Hofstra Law professor Joanna Grossman.

The lawsuit itself is a recently filed class action litigation in the Southern District of New York that challenges the Department of Homeland Security’s new policy denying humanitarian relief to abused and neglected minors who are under 21 but have turned 18.

The following selection from the amicus brief provides a summary of the main issues addressed by amici:

As detailed in the complaint in this action, beginning in mid-2017, USCIS has capriciously deemed a large and increasing number of Family Court orders insufficient to establish the required SIJ findings. The responses depart significantly from previous USCIS adjudication practices where SIJ orders with identical language had for many years been deemed sufficient, and had resulted in SIJ Status approvals for minors who had been abused, neglected, abandoned, or subjected to a similar family crisis as defined by New York State law. This change in USCIS responses to SIJ applications has transpired without any change in the Federal law, rules, or regulations that govern SIJ matters.

One population of minors targeted by USCIS’ new practices are abused, neglected, or abandoned minors who are under 21, but have turned 18 by the time they obtain SIJ findings from the Family Court. USCIS has recently made a number of erroneous claims about the jurisdiction of New York Family Courts over such minors in order to justify denials of SIJ Status. Among other claims, USCIS has wrongly asserted that New York State Family Courts (1) do not have jurisdiction over care and custody of minors who have turned 18, and (2) cannot order the reunification of a minor with the minor’s parents once the minor turns 18.

Amici curiae are submitting this brief to highlight USCIS’ deeply flawed assertions given the historical, statutory, and common law bases for New York Family Court’s jurisdiction over minors ages 18 to 21 for purposes of making care and custody determinations, and reunification findings.