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Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems

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Language abounds in the New York Family Court Act on the Court's duties to aid families in crisis, to maintain families whenever appropriate, to safeguard children's well-being, and to provide children with permanency in their lives. These are not narrow obligations, and as the population served by the New York City Family Court changes, its judges, practitioners, and agencies must adapt. The Court today must meet the challenge of a dramatically changing demographic: the ever-rising number of children and families in New York City who do not have legal immigration status. This Article examines the complex interplay between immigration issues raised by non-documented families and the Court's obligation to serve every family and every child who come before it. The Article first presents statistical and anecdotal background to illustrate the rising number of families without legal status and the increasingly harsh laws affecting them. The Article then describes the two most common ways that family court matters and immigration issues interrelate - special immigrant juvenile cases and the collateral consequences of Family Court admissions for immigration proceedings - to illustrate the areas in which a basic level of competence in immigration law is most vital for Family Court judges and for practitioners and agencies who come before the Court.' Finally, the Article makes several proposals for what these judges, practitioners, and agencies can do to attain the level of proficiency in these areas that is required to meet their obligations and duties to all children and families, including those who lack legal immigration status.



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