State Legal Resources for Immigrant Children and Families

​Immigrant Child Health Toolkit

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​State ​Legal Resources for Immigrant Children and Families​


​The following directory provides a state by state list of resources and organizations that address the legal and advocacy needs of immigrant families. Click on your state on the map below, to find local resources. Pediatricians may want to build relationships with local and state organizations that are knowledgeable of immigration law, and provide legal assistance for families on issues related to health care and family well-being. 

This legal directory was developed by Cristina Meneses, JD, MS and colleagues at The Network for Public Health. The Network for Public Health Law provides legal assistance, helpful resources and opportunities to build connections for local, tribal, state and federal officials; public health practitioners; attorneys; policy-makers; and advocates.

This information is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.

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​Commonly Referenced Areas of Legal Assistance for Immigrant Families

Access to health care: Attorneys represent individuals seeking health care resources in order to preserve or improve their health, including (but not limited to) inappropriate denial of health care services, health insurance, medication, and enrollment in Medicaid or Medicare.  

Child advocacy: Child advocacy lawyers defend the legal rights of children and ensure that children's best interests are protected in the courtroom. A child advocacy lawyer may be needed in cases involving divorce, child custody, neglect or abuse, education, and juvenile court proceedings. Attorneys may represent the child in court as a guardian ad litem. 

Community Living: Community living refers to individuals with disabilities that live their life in the community rather than in an institution. Attorneys assist people with disabilities in accessing housing and community based services in their own homes and communities. These services include: personal assistance services, assistive technology, case management, comprehensive individualized plan, day programs, including placement in activity centers and adult skills programs, vocational services, and quality of life services such as recreation, leisure and transportation. 

Family law: Family law is a legal practice area encompassing the legal issues that families face, including: divorce, division of assets and liabilities, spousal support, child support, custody, child visitation, adoption, termination of parental rights, paternity, dependency and child neglect, domestic abuse.  

Family-based petitions: Family-based petitions allow foreign nationals to become lawful permanent residents as a result of their familial relationship with a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States.  

Education law: Attorneys represent students and their families in cases related to school safety and discipline, entitlement to special education services, and civil rights (free speech, freedom of religion, discrimination, etc.). 

Public benefits claims: Attorneys assist clients with applying for or appealing denial of public benefits such as: public housing, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  

Adjustment of Status: The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) permits the change of an individual's immigration status while in the United States from nonimmigrant or parolee (temporary) to immigrant (permanent) if the individual was inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States and is able to meet all required qualifications for a green card (permanent residence) in a particular category. The common term for a change to permanent status is “adjustment of status.”

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status: Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is available for foreign children in the United States if they meet the following requirements: 1) Declared by a state court to be a dependent of the court or legally placed with a state agency, a private agency, or a private person; 2) it is not in best interests of the child  to return to his or her home country; and 3) the child cannot be reunited with a parent because of abuse, abandonment, neglect, or similar reason under state law. 

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) petitions: Under VAWA, immigrant victims of domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse may “self-petition” for lawful permanent resident status without the cooperation of an abusive spouse, parent, or adult child. It allows the victim to confidentially file the self-petition and attain lawful permanent resident status without separating from the abuser, thereby allowing the victim to leave the abuser after lawful permanent resident status has been obtained.

U Visa: Under the U Visa regulations, noncitizen crime victims who assist or are willing to assist in the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense can be granted permission to live and work in the United States and may result in the dismissal of any case in immigration court filed against the immigrant. Noncitizens with U visas are eligible to receive a work permit. Applicants who apply from within the U.S. automatically receive work authorization when the application is approved. Family members included in the victim’s application are eligible to apply for a work permit.

T Visa: The T Visa provides immigration relief to victims of severe forms of human trafficking, which is defined as (1) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by fraud, force, coercion, or in which the victim is younger than 18 years of age, or (2) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude or slavery.

Individual Rights/Civil Rights: References to individual rights or civil rights include legal representation of individuals who have been discriminated against because of their membership to a particular class, including race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, language, national origin, or immigration status. Civil rights cases also include violations in the areas of freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom from involuntary servitude; and the right to equality in public places. 

Non-English Resources: Individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) have legal rights related to access to services and benefits in their native language. Legal advocates are able to work with LEP individuals to ensure they are able to access those resources. ​

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