Immigration Defense

A CFR Home for Good Initiative:
Advocating for Non-Citizen Families

Legal and Social Work Advocacy

Almost a third of the clients CFR represents are immigrants and to defend them and their families, our Immigration team offers them specialized attorney, social work and paralegal assistance. When the City charges non-citizen parents with neglect, whether they are undocumented or have a “green card,” the charge can put their immigration status in jeopardy. Although their children are often citizens, these parents risk being detected by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), separated from their children, taken into custody, held in detention, and even deported. That risk is even greater if they also have a criminal case.

Beyond that, an immigrant parent has other challenges when dealing with the City or the courts. First, they are usually afraid—for themselves and their extended family—once a government agency is scrutinizing them. Even if they want services like counseling or substance use help, they may think that getting those services will put them at risk of deportation. We help them overcome that fear.

For the same reasons, relatives may be unwilling to come forward to be kin foster parents if children go into the foster system. CFR partners with our clients, to reach out to their family and networks to make sure that whenever possible, their children don’t go to live with strangers.

Undocumented parents aren’t eligible for public benefits, so they can’t rely on Medicaid (as other parents can) to pay for the services that the City mandates. We help them find programs that are free or offer sliding scale payments.

Often what little work undocumented parents have is insecure or at odd hours so they have trouble attending multiple court proceedings or meetings, as well as visiting with their children at the times the foster system agencies prescribe. We make sure that they don’t have to choose between seeing their children or getting counseling and staying employed.

Language barriers make it hard for parents to understand the foster or court systems, so if our multilingual staff cannot translate for them, we get court orders to make sure they always have a translator at meetings and in court. We also help them find services where providers speak their language and understand their culture.

We help parents apply for legal status, and if they are at risk of deportation, we defend them.

We work for systemic reform and have become nationally recognized experts in supporting immigrant families that are involved in the child welfare system.

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