Immigrants' Rights

Public Counsel’s Immigrants’ Rights Project (IRP) envisions a world where all (im)migrants live with dignity, power and opportunity.  We are a team of advocates who collaborate with immigrant clients and communities to fight fearlessly for legal protections and a just immigration system.  We practice holistic, trauma-informed advocacy, recognizing that our clients come to us with extraordinary strengths, but also vulnerability due to the violence many have experienced through forced migration and our broken immigration system.  By utilizing a multi-disciplinary approach to our work, we help our clients thrive and secure legal status in the United States. We focus on representing immigrants in Southern California who cannot access legal protections without counsel.

We prioritize serving asylum seekers, immigrants in detention, survivors of violent crime, and unaccompanied children.  Our staff provides direct representation to clients, engages in impact litigation and advocacy, as well as recruits, trains and mentors hundreds of volunteer attorneys.  We assist the following:

Asylum Seekers

We serve individuals and families from countries throughout the world who have fled persecution and are seeking asylum.  Our clients have been persecuted due to their religious or political beliefs, due to anti-LGBTQ violence, and/or due to their membership in marginalized groups in their homelands.  Presently, a significant percent of our clients are families who have fled gang violence in Central America and then survived additional harm during their flight to reach safety and in U.S. immigration custody.  Some of these families remain separated or are recovering from the trauma of family separation carried out by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Our staff provides direct representation and recruits and mentors hundreds of pro bono attorneys to represent clients through the asylum process, and provides social work support to clients.

People in Immigration Detention

IRP’S detention team fights for the collective liberation of people harmed by the U.S. detention and deportation machines through client-centered legal advocacy. We provide legal representation, both in-house and through volunteer attorneys, to individuals incarcerated by immigration authorities at the Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, California, as well as to deported veterans. We also provide legal services to individuals subject to the Trump Administration’s unlawful Migration Protection Protocols (MPP) program. Our clients range from newly arrived asylum seekers to people who have lived nearly their entire lives in this country.  The team is also deeply engaged in advocacy efforts to ensure a lawyer for all immigrants in detention, and is a partner in the fight to end immigration detention.

Survivors of Violent Crime

Our Survivors’ Team represents men, women and children whose U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouses or parents have inflicted violence upon them.  Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), these individuals can secure immigration status without the knowledge or sponsorship of the abusive spouse or parent who would normally control the immigration process.  The team also represents victims of serious crimes made eligible for special visas (U, T) through cooperation with law enforcement.  Congress created these visas to ensure that crime victims could report crime without the fear of deportation and live with safety and stability.  The team authors training materials, provides ongoing mentoring to volunteer attorneys, and empowers clients by connecting them to social services.  The Team has also established a network of community and government stakeholders to combat notario fraud in response to the epidemic of notaries defrauding the immigrant community and partners with clients to report and prosecute fraud.

Unaccompanied Children

IRP’s Unaccompanied Children (UC) Team represents approximately 200 children who have come without parents to the United States, often after fleeing extreme violence.  These children frequently experience additional violence on their journey to the U.S. border and while detained by U.S. immigration authorities.  Many have been separated from family members through the migration process, and many have lost a parent to violence.  These children have spent weeks or months in U.S. government shelters before being released to a family members in the Los Angeles area.  We defend these children from deportation and represent the children in immigration court, juvenile court and before the USCIS Asylum Office.   We also empower the children we serve by assessing their non-legal needs and helping them access essential services, including education and health care.  The vast majority are eligible for and secure asylum or special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS), and ultimately become permanent residents.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

IRP represents abused or abandoned children eligible for SIJS.  While many of our clients have recently fled to the United States, just as many are long term residents of the United States who know no other home.  Through SIJS, these children are able to secure a path to citizenship which fosters their safety and independence.  We are recognized as national leaders on SIJS, and IRP staff authors widely-used SIJS training materials, provides trainings and technical assistance on SIJS nationwide, and engages in policy advocacy to benefit SIJS-eligible youth.

Representation in Unusual Immigration Cases Involving Compelling Humanitarian or Public Policy Issues

IRP uses litigation to protect and enhance the rights of immigrants throughout out United States.  Our lawsuits have focused on requiring the U.S. government to provide all immigrants with due process. We have achieved the following:

  • Forced the U.S. government to provide trauma informed mental health services to families separated at the border under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy
  • Forced the U.S. government to provide due process to immigrants with severe mental disabilities.  As a result of our litigation, the government now must screen for and identify immigrants in detention with severe mental disabilities and appoint counsel at government expense for those found incompetent
  • Stopped the Trump administration from implementing unlawful policies which would have prevented thousands of unaccompanied children from obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and from accessing child-friendly asylum procedures
  • Forced the Trump administration to return to the United States vulnerable children who were unlawfully deported back to their home countries in violation of a court order
  • Forced the Trump administration to allow back into the United States and grant citizenship to a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces who had been deported
  • Forced the Trump administration to release from custody immigrants at high risk of COVID


WHAT IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT IMMIGRANT FAMILIES CAN DO TO PROTECT THEIR FUTURES? 

LEARN YOUR RIGHTS NOW! 

THE FOLLOWING ORGANIZATIONS OFFER LOW-COST LEGAL CONSULTATIONS FOR IMMIGRANTS:

CARECEN:  (213) 385-7800, ext. 136

CHIRLA:  (888) 624-4752

Los Angeles County Bar Association Immigrant Assistance Project: (213) 485-1873