Don’t Wait: You Can Act Now to Protect Your Children If You Face Deportation

Kids holding an American flag

Between 2015 and the end of 2017, almost 90,000 undocumented immigrants who were deported had children who are U.S. citizens. The numbers for 2018 and this year are not available but are undoubtedly much higher. For many immigrant families, this is their worst fear – what will happen to their children if they are detained or deported?

Last June, New York expanded its Standby Guardian law to allow parents to designate ahead of time the person who would take over as legal guardian if they are detained or deported. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, similar legislation has been proposed but has not passed. However, in all three states, there are important steps you can take to protect your family.

Advance planning is important because it gives you the most control over who cares for your children and because it reduces the risk that your child will be placed in foster care. It can also ease some of the fear and worry that families feel, never knowing if and when their life could change forever.

In New York, you can simply designate an individual as standby guardian or you can file a court action seeking their appointment. The opportunity to file an action to appoint a standby guardian is important if there is a second parent who is not in the picture or is unfit. It is very difficult for grandparents or other caregivers to seek appointment when there is another legal parent. However, the primary parent who is at risk of deportation can provide showing evidence why the other legal parent should not be allowed to become guardian ahead of time in a standby guardianship proceeding. This can protect a child from ending up in foster care while the state tries to locate an absent parent or protect the child from being placed with an unfit parent. For parents who agree on a back-up guardian, or for a single parent, a document designating the successor is probably the best approach.

At Norris McLaughlin, our immigration, trusts and estates, and family law groups have worked together to develop the specialized documents and processes needed to protect undocumented individuals and their families, a sort of Deportation Family Protection Package. We can assist you to provide legal authority for a caregiver for medical and educational purposes, to appoint a standby or temporary guardian for your child, and to ensure your assets and your children’s assets are protected.

If you have any questions about this post or any other related matters, please email me at To learn more about any other immigration matter, please feel free to contact Ray Lahoud, Chair of the Norris McLaughlin Immigration Law Practice, at

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