Jeanne and Joseph Sullivan Project for Protection of Asylum Seekers

Upholding America's Legacy as a Refuge for Victims of Persecution

Americans take pride in our country’s legacy of providing refuge to men, women, and children fleeing persecution and torture in their native countries. The National Immigrant Justice Center’s Jeanne and Joseph Sullivan Project for Protection of Asylum Seekers provides free legal representation to people fleeing persecution and torture in their native countries. As the U.S. government continues to create barriers to asylum and expands grounds for deportation, legal representation is ever more important to protecting asylum seekers and their rights.

With a network of approximately 1,000 pro bono attorneys from the nation’s leading law firms, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) ensures that persecuted individuals seeking lawful status, protection, and freedom in the United States have access to the legal support they need to navigate the complex immigration system. NIJC advocates for legal reforms with the U.S. government to uphold its international human rights obligations. These efforts include:

  • Gather evidence to demonstrate the critical importance of legislative and administrative reform of the material support bar to asylum.
  • Collaborate with organizations such as the American Bar Association to promote reform of the immigration courts and propose solutions to the Department of Justice to reduce court delays.
  • Litigate lower court decisions that result in erroneous decisions. Attorneys from NIJC and its pro bono network frequently argue asylum cases in U.S. federal courts, winning precedential decisions that correct irrational interpretations of the law and hold the immigration courts accountable to ensure due process for asylum seekers.

Photo credit: Alexandra Strada

Last year, NIJC provided legal counsel and representation to more than 6,000 asylum seekers, refugees, unaccompanied children, and victims of human trafficking and domestic violence.

Impact: Safety from Violence after Speaking Out

NIJC partner pro bono attorneys won asylum for a Rwandan woman whose entire family was murdered by rebel forces during the country’s 1994 genocide. She was forced to flee persecution after speaking about the crime. In 2004, five days after she identified some of the attackers in a court hearing, two returned to her home and raped her, saying that her “day to die would come soon.” Seeking safety, she moved to another region of Rwanda. But the rebels found her. They bound her, tied a plastic bag around her neck, and left her to suffocate.