Immigrant Legal Defense Project

Achieving Security for Immigrant Families

Harsh immigration laws prevent thousands of immigrants and their families from living securely, even when eligible for immigration status. Those who are able to apply for lawful status must contend with misinformation and with major backlogs in the immigration court system. Without the assurances of lawful status and work authorization, many immigrant families confront overwhelming obstacles.

NIJC’s Immigrant Legal Defense (ILD) project responds to the urgent need of immigrant families. The ILD project's experienced immigration attorneys and paralegals, including representatives accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals, ensure that immigrants are aware of their legal options and provide representation before U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services and the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

The ILD project offers a wide range of low-cost and free legal services to low-income immigrants in jurisdiction of the Chicago immigration court.

  • Family-based immigration: Legal assistance for permanent residents and U.S. citizens who want to apply to bring family members to the United States or to allow family members in the United States to adjust their status
  • Applications for lawful permanent residence: Assistance in completing and filing applications for lawful permanent residence (also known as a green card)
  • Naturalization/citizenship: Legal assistance for permanent residents who want to apply to become U.S. citizens
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS): Legal assistance for immigrants who qualify for TPS visas based on their country of origin and dates of immigration
  • Legal protections for victims of violence, including domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Visas for immigrant victims of human trafficking

NIJC's ILD project works with community and faith-based aid organizations and law schools to share its expertise in immigration law and offer technical assistance based on NIJC's highly successful service-delivery model. ILD project staff conduct regular outreach to the community regarding immigration legal options and provide information to prevent families from becoming victims of notary fraud and the unauthorized practice of law.

Photo credit: Alexandra Strada

Last year, NIJC's Immigrant Legal Defense Project provided legal services that helped more than 3,000 immigrants reunite with family members. Many of those individuals are now U.S. citizens.

Impact: Keeping Families Together

In the late 1990s, a notary public provided unauthorized and fraudulent legal advice to Diego* and his father when they attempted to file a petition to allow Diego to live in the United States. As a result, the government denied Diego's application and placed him in deportation proceedings. In 2003, the court ordered Diego to leave the United States under "voluntary departure." After Diego's departure, his father sought legal advice from the National Immigrant Justice Center.