Immigrants' Rights

Public Counsel's Immigrants' Rights Project (IRP) provides legal representation to individuals in the following areas:

Asylum

IRP represents asylum seekers for whom the United States is a desperately-needed refuge from torture and the threat of death on account of their nationality, race, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group - including claims based on domestic violence and sexual orientation. Public Counsel is one of the few organizations in Los Angeles that provides direct legal representation to persons seeking asylum. IRP assists clients seeking asylum before the Los Angeles Asylum Office and Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. We are also involved in policy and legislative advocacy for child asylum seekers.

Relief Under The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (VTVPA)

IRP represents victims of serious crimes who become eligible for immigration benefits through cooperation with law enforcement officials. Congress created the U visa to ensure that crime victims come forward to cooperate with federal and local criminal investigations without fear of deportation. IRP has helped put Congressional intent into action by representing individual U visa applicants, assisting in the development of protocols in Southern California to obtain necessary U visa certifications from law enforcement officials, authoring training materials on the U visa and providing U visa seminars and technical assistance to pro bono attorneys. IRP also helps victims to obtain T visas, another VTVPA-created benefit designed to assist, rather than silence, survivors of human trafficking.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)

IRP represents abused, abandoned and neglected children under the jurisdiction of state dependency, delinquency and probate courts who cannot reunify with their parent/s. These children may qualify for SIJS and lawful permanent residency, thus helping them to prepare for their adoption or emancipation from the juvenile court system. IRP is a leader on SIJS in Southern California and collaborates closely with other non-profits and the Los Angeles County Department of Children & Family Services. 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 children.

Relief Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

IRP represents immigrant men, women and children whose U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouses or parents have inflicted physical abuse or extreme mental cruelty upon them. Through VAWA, IRP helps survivors of domestic violence to obtain lawful permanent residency without the knowledge or sponsorship of the abusive spouse or parent who would normally control the immigration process. IRP also actively participates in the Voluntades program, recently created by the Mexican Consulate to provide comprehensive legal and social services to victims of domestic violence.  Through this program, IRP assists Mexican nationals who have been victims of violence to obtain legal status, and connects them with the social services that they need to lead healthy and independent lives.

Legal Services for Detained Immigrants

In November 2008, IRP launched a program to provide legal services for immigrants detained by the federal government at the Santa Ana City Jail. Prior to this effort, indigent immigrants detained at that facility were forced to navigate their detention and removal proceedings in the Los Angeles Immigration Court without access to legal assistance. IRP staff conducts weekly legal orientation classes for those new to the detention system and provides legal consults to those who lack representation. IRP staff also provides direct representation in limited immigration and prolonged detention cases, and matches detained asylum seekers, victims of violence and long-time lawful permanent residents with volunteer attorneys willing to help them fight for permanent safety and stability in the United States.

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

IRP strives to serve as a place of last resort for unusual and compelling cases involving non-citizens. For example, IRP has provided representation to: (1) undocumented persons with severe physical or mental illnesses whose well being would have been jeopardized by deportation from the United States; (2) individuals with serious medical or mental health needs who are detained by federal immigration authorities; and (3) undocumented workers caught in immigration raids and placed into removal proceedings.

UCLA School of Law Immigration Clinic

IRP staff members Judy London and Kristen Jackson co-teach the Immigration Law Clinic at UCLA School of Law. Each spring semester, a dozen UCLA law students gain intensive in-class training and assist clients seeking asylum, SIJS, U visas and relief through VAWA under the supervision of IRP staff at Public Counsel. The Immigration Law Clinic serves clients who otherwise would go unrepresented while training the next generation of quality immigration lawyers and volunteer attorneys.

Each year, over 200 volunteer attorneys and law students represent our clients -- each supported by our extensive technical assistance and the service of volunteer interpreters, therapists, physicians and country conditions experts. IRP staff members are also actively involved in community education, outreach and legislative advocacy.