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Representing Children in Immigration Matters 2016: Effective Advocacy and Ethical Best Practices

Speaker(s): Angela Hernández, Elizabeth M. Frankel, Heather Axford, Jodi Ziesemer, Theo S Liebmann
Recorded on: Nov. 22, 2016
PLI Program #: 179372

Theo Liebmann

Clinical Professor and Attorney-in-Charge, Hofstra Youth Advocacy Clinic

Director of Clinical Programs at Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University


Professor Liebmann teaches ethics at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, and has directed the Hofstra Youth Advocacy Clinic since its inception. In his capacity as Attorney-in-Charge of the Clinic, he works with law students to advocate on behalf of youth involved in the immigration and family court legal systems. Professor Liebmann and his students have represented hundreds of youth in cases involving physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect, as well as related delinquency, custody and guardianship matters. Prior to his current position at Hofstra, Professor Liebmann was a lawyer for children in maltreatment and juvenile delinquency cases at the Manhattan office of the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Division, an investigator at the New York City Commission on Human Rights, and a Community Worker at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem. Professor Liebmann serves as Director of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy’s Training the Lawyer to Represent the Whole Child program, and frequently leads workshops on topics such as the role of the children’s lawyers and immigrant youth issues. He recently developed a NITA case file and program providing training in collaborative skills for lawyers and social workers who work in the child dependency field. Professor Liebmann has written in the areas of the overlap between child welfare and immigration law, the impact of family law legal standards on the physical and emotional well-being of youth and children, and ethical problems in the representation of children.  He currently serves as the co-chair of the New York State Advisory Council on Immigration Issues in Family Court.  Professor Liebmann received his B.A. from Yale University and his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center.  He and his wife Barb have four daughters who have taught them the great joy of cheerful chaos.


Heather Axford has been representing asylum applicants at Central American Legal Assistance since 2008 and is currently Legal Director.  She represents primarily Central American trauma survivors in removal proceedings as well as victims of egregious constitutional violations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and indigent immigrants eligible for other humanitarian immigration relief. She practices regularly before the Asylum Office, Immigration Court, Board of Immigration Appeals, and Federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  She is an Adjunct Professor of Refugee & Asylum Law at New York Law School. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, School of Law and Vassar College.

Angela Hernandez is a senior staff attorney at The Door's Legal Services Center. The Door is a comprehensive youth development agency located in lower Manhattan. Each year The Door serves more than 11,000 young people from all over New York City with a wide range of services including reproductive health care, mental health counseling, legal assistance, GED and ESOL classes, tutoring, college preparation services, career development, job training and placement, supportive housing, sports and recreational activities, arts, and nutritious meals. The Legal Services Center provides a range of civil legal services, and has a focus on representing undocumented young people in both affirmative and defensive immigration proceedings.

Angela specializes in representing immigrant children in removal proceedings. Angela represents these children in before Immigration Court as well as before state juvenile courts in New York City, where she assist them to seek the special findings orders necessary for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status applications to USCIS.  Additionally, Angela oversees the screening of unaccompanied immigrant children at The Door's juvenile and surge docket at Immigration Court. Prior to working with The Door’s Legal Services Center, Angela has worked as a Staff Attorney for the National Immigrant Justice Center's Counter-Trafficking Project in Chicago, as Director of Domestic Violence Programs at Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego and as a Staff Attorney for the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles.  Angela received her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law her B.A. from University of Chicago.

Elizabeth Frankel, Esq. is the Associate Director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, a non-profit organization that provides Child Advocates (best interests guardians ad litem) for unaccompanied immigrant children in federal custody. Elizabeth has worked for the Young Center since 2009, first in the Chicago office and now in New York. While in Chicago, Elizabeth was a lecturer in law at the University of Chicago Law School, where she taught two courses: a clinic in which law students served as Child Advocates for unaccompanied immigrant children, and a lecture course on immigration law. Prior to joining the Young Center, Elizabeth clerked for the Honorable Susan J. Calkins of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and she practiced in the areas of immigration and litigation at Verrill Dana LLP, where she devoted substantial time to asylum and removal cases. Elizabeth received her J.D. from NYU School of Law and her B.A. from Middlebury College.

Jodi Ziesemer is a Supervising Attorney at Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New York for the Immigrant Children Advocacy and Relief Effort (ICARE) where she coordinates representation of recently arrived unaccompanied immigrant children. Jodi also manages the Immigration Court Helpdesk, a new initiative to provide information and resources to unrepresented immigrants facing removal proceedings in New York. In addition, she has worked for the past seven years representing a wide variety of immigrants in front of Executive Office of Immigration Review (Immigration Court) and USCIS. Prior to graduating summa cum laude from New York Law School, Jodi worked as a Board of Immigration Appeals representative for the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago and as a paralegal at Fitzgerald and Company, LLC in Boston. During her thirteen years in immigration law, Jodi has worked on a range of projects including human trafficking, naturalization drives, pro bono asylum, representation for unaccompanied minors and victims of violent crime. Jodi also participates in the Immigration Representation Project (IRP), funded by New York Community Trust to link indigent immigrants who face removal proceedings in New York City immigration courts with free legal representation, by conducting screenings at the immigration court and accepting cases for representation. Jodi holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Grinnell College and a Master’s in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a J.D. from New York Law School.