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Practical Tips and Strategies for Litigating SIJS Cases During COVID

(51 reviews)

Produced on October 08, 2020

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Course Information

Time 1h 31m
Difficulty Intermediate
Topics covered in this course: Immigration Covid-19

Course Description

This CLE will cover practical tips and strategies to troubleshoot common issues coming up in litigating Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) cases during the global COVID-19 pandemic. While the presenters will discuss their experiences litigating in New York courts, the strategies presented are nationally applicable. The course will review the current NYC Family Court COVID-19 policy issued on 7/31/20 outlining revised procedures since the courts are not currently accepting new filings where Special Findings for SIJS are sought, like guardianship and custody cases, except for extreme age-out cases. The program will discuss best practices for working with family court to get cases adjudicated in time and in good shape for subsequent adjudication by USCIS. Lastly, the program will also cover how to troubleshoot common issues and recent trends in USCIS Requests for Evidence (RFE), and issues affecting over-18 cases for RFM v. Nielsen class members, such as the need for obtaining nunc pro tunc revised Special Findings Orders, and USCIS’ expanded use of their “consent function” as a basis for the denial.

This course is presented by Rebecca Sosa and Justyna Gawel, Liz Rieser-Murphy from the Legal Aid Society, Molly Coe from VOLS, and Alex Rizio from the Safe Passage Project.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Troubleshooting common issues in litigating SIJS cases in removal

  2. Discuss best practices and practical tips to obtain a favorable SIJS decision under a very tight schedule

  3. Gain guidance on drafting a strong Special Findings Order based on current USCIS adjudication trends

  4. Obtain quick tips if you need to appeal Family Court and USCIS denials

  5. Develop strategies to respond to USCIS Request for Evidence (RFE)

  6. Review adjudication trends from USCIS, including the expansion of “consent function” as a basis for denial of SIJS cases

Credit Information

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Rebecca Sosa

Sosa Law

Rebecca L. Sosa, Esq. is an immigration attorney based in New York City.  Rebecca’s firm, Sosa Law, focuses on family-based immigration, humanitarian relief, and removal defense in Spanish and English.  Rebecca received her J.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall), and B.A. with honors in Psychology from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.  Rebecca’s immigration practice draws upon on her study of and published research on working with children who have experienced trauma. Rebecca is admitted to the bar in New York and Florida.

Rebecca is an active member of the New York chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  She has previously served as a Co-Chair of the NY AILA Pro Bono Committee, where she coordinated a Children’s Docket to provide pro bono consultations to unrepresented children facing deportation, and organized the New York City Immigrant Advocacy Initiative (NYCIAI) free immigration clinics throughout the city.  Rebecca was also Co-Chair of the NY AILA Ethics / Unlawful Practice of Law Committee, and a member of the Protecting Immigrant New Yorkers Task Force (PINY).  Rebecca is a member of the NYC Bar Association Immigration & Nationality Committee, and has served as the Co-chair of the Asylum and Immigration Courts subcommittee.

Rebecca has a long-standing dedication to pro bono service.  In 2015 The New York Law Journal named Rebecca as a Lawyer Who Leads by Example based on her outstanding record of providing crucial legal services to poor New Yorkers.  Rebecca was also awarded the 2013 Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award, where she addressed the Florida Supreme Court about her passion for pro bono work.  Rebecca was a Recipient of the Legal Aid Society’s 2010 Pro Bono Publico Award for providing outstanding legal assistance to a major community organization in New York.

Rebecca can be reached at SosaLawNYC@gmail.com.

Molly Coe

Volunteers of Legal Service

Molly Coe is the Senior Staff Attorney in the Immigration Project at Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS), where she has worked since 2014. From 2014 to 2016 Ms. Coe was an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by MetLife and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; her fellowship focused on providing free legal assistance to undocumented students who are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) due to parental abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Ms. Coe was previously the Outreach Coordinator for LawHelp/NY, an online legal information and referral service. She has extensive experience working with immigrant youth and conducting community outreach. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). 

Ms. Coe received her J.D. from CUNY School of Law in 2014 and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2015. She received her B.A. in Political Science from Boston University in 2008. She is admitted to practice in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York.

Alexandra Rizio

Safe Passage Project

A graduate of Fordham Law School and Columbia College, Alexandra Rizio has a long history of advocating for the rights of immigrants. Alex joined Safe Passage Project as a staff attorney in 2015, and she later supervised the organization's New York City team. Alex now serves as Managing Attorney for Training and Partnerships at Safe Passage, where she develops litigation and technical assistance tools for attorneys and leads the organization's pro bono department, which works with over 400 volunteer lawyers throughout New York City and Long Island. Alex also led Safe Passage Project's representation of over 60 children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border during the summer of 2018, and she continues to lead the organization's ongoing litigation strategy in relation to the separation policy.

Before Safe Passage, Alex was an Associate Immigration Attorney at the firm Masliah & Soloway (now the Masliah Firm), which focused on serving LGBTQ immigrants; prior to that, she coordinated a pro bono program at Start Small Think Big, an economic empowerment non-profit located in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. At Fordham Law, Alex was a Stein Scholar in Public Interest and Ethics, a Crowley Scholar in International Human Rights and a 2012 recipient of the Archibald R. Murray Public Service Award. During law school, Alex served as the Ellenbogen Fellow at HerJustice (formerly inMotion), as a Revson Fellow in the Family Law and Domestic Violence Unit of South Brooklyn Legal Services, and as an asylum intern at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. She was also a Leitner Fellow at MAP Foundation in Chiang Mai, Thailand; in that role, she researched labor violations and gender-based violence experienced by female Burmese migrant workers and analyzed Thailand’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Elizabeth Rieser-Murphy

Legal Aid Society

Elizabeth Rieser-Murphy is a Staff Attorney in the Immigrant Youth Representation Project at The Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit in New York City which provides low -income unaccompanied, child migrants living in New York City with free comprehensive immigration services. As a Staff Attorney, she represents unaccompanied immigrant children in federal courts, New York family courts, and administrative proceedings. Elizabeth believes that access to justice is a human right and that every young person deserves to have his/her voice heard.

Justyna Gawel

Sosa Law

Justyna Gawel, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Sosa Law, an immigration law firm based in New York City. Justyna received her J.D. from New York Law School in 2019 and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2020. She received her B.A. in International Studies from Earlham College, in Richmond, IN in 2016. In her practice at Sosa Law, Justyna focuses on family-based and humanitarian relief in Spanish, English, and Polish.

During law school, Justyna focused on immigration and human rights law issues. Justyna served as Human Rights Legal Intern at the New York State Division of Human Rights, Office of Sexual Harassment Issues, as a Legal Intern at Unaccompanied Minors Program at Catholic Charities, and as Law Clinic Student with New York Law School Immigration Law and Litigation Clinic with Safe Passage Project, where she was trained to screen and represent juveniles before the Executive Office of Immigration Review and in New York Family Courts.


Debbie Ann R.

Excellent course & instructors.


Thank you. Great lecture.

Todd P.

Absolutely excellent presentations by each presenter. One of the best I've ever seen on this or other CLE platforms!

Carrie K.

Filled with practical advice on how to proceed in the time of covid

Julie W.

This was an excellent presentation by very knowledgeable attorneys.

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