Defenders Initiative

Building the Capacity of the Criminal Bar to Protect the Rights of Immigrants

Immigrants accused of even minor offenses are highly vulnerable to mandatory detention, deportation, and permanent exile. In 2010, the Supreme Court in Padilla v. Kentucky held that criminal defense lawyers must advise their clients about the potential immigration consequences of criminal pleas. Yet, criminal defense lawyers face many challenges to adequately addressing and advising their immigrant clients on these consequences, including limited resources, constantly evolving statutory and case law, and a lack of expertise in the complexities of immigration law.

NIJC's Defenders Initiative offers trainings as well as prompt, individualized, case-specific consultations to federal and state defenders (public, private, and panel) regarding the immigration consequences of pleas and convictions for immigrant defendants.

If you are a criminal defense attorney with a question regarding the potential immigration consequences of a plea offer or conviction, please contact the Defenders Initiative by phone at (312) 660-1610, by email at defend@heartlandalliance.org, or through our online inquiry submission form.

Resources

The Defenders Initiative is developing a series of resources -- including practice advisories, manuals, and checklists -- designed to assist defenders representing immigrants in criminal proceedings. Check back here often for new and updated materials.

Download the Defenders Initiative brochure for basic information about how you can help your client avoid deportation and other negative immigration consequences. 

Download the free manual Defending Non-Citizens in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin

In 2010, the Defenders Initiative conducted trainings for more than 750 criminal defense attorneys and responded to nearly 250 inquiries from these attorneys. The demand for legal consultations through the Defenders Initiative nearly tripled after the Supreme Court issued its decision in Padilla.