Adult Representation Project
Each year, ImmDef’s Adult Representation Project provides legal representation to more than one hundred immigrants who are in detention and who have been found to have mental health issues, thus requiring a judge to appoint a qualified attorney to represent them in deportation proceedings.
Children's Representation Project
ImmDef’s Children’s Representation Project is one of the largest programs of its kind in the United States and provides representation and pro bono placement (referrals for free representation by outside attorneys) for more than 600 children each year, including children arriving unaccompanied and refugees.
Our adult clients with mental health challenges come to us through these appointments. If you know of a person in this situation, it is important to seek a judge's determination of mental incompetence before we can step in to represent them.
The children and youth we represent are generally referred to us through the Office of Refugee Resettlement or the shelters with whom it contracts. If you know of a child in this situation, you may contact us during the last week of each month to schedule a consultation appointment if we have capacity.
Immigration Relief in
In what may be the only practice of its kind in Southern California, ImmDef has a fellowship position dedicated to researching and analyzing the cases of certain immigrants caught up in the criminal courts system who may qualify for some type of immigration relief.
The USC/ImmDef Post-Conviction Relief Fellowship, created by ImmDef with the USC Gould School of Law, is designed to allow representation of people who may qualify to have their pleas or sentences in criminal cases modified for specific reasons, including whether they were properly told by their attorneys about the immigration consequences of pleading guilty or being convicted.
ImmDef coordinates with attorneys who volunteer to represent immigrant children facing deportation. This expands our capacity and helps fulfill the need for legal representation among children who since 2014 have been arriving alone from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to escape uncontrolled gang violence and abuse.
When they arrive in the United States, these children face automatic deportation but can go before an immigration judge to plead their case and receive asylum or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). The process is complex and impossible to navigate without a lawyer, and the need for legal help exceeds the capacity of local non-profit organizations, like ImmDef, that do this work. Pro Bono lawyers can step in to fill the gap.
Community Education/Social Integration
Detained Youth Empowerment Project
The Detained Youth Empowerment Project (DYEP) at ImmDef is an innovative program that provides “Know Your Rights” classes and legal screenings to all children and youth in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in shelters across the greater Los Angeles region.
The DYEP team travels weekly to area shelters, using popular education techniques and video technology to engage minors in learning the basics of immigration court. We believe all immigrants, including children, should actively participate in their representation, to the best of their ability.
Social Services Case Management
Our case managers refer clients and their families to available social services outside of legal representation, including mental health counseling, health insurance, shelter, help with paying energy bills, tutoring, donated goods, and community organizations that provide spiritual help.
Each of our legal representation projects is assigned a case manager of its own. Each case manager works closely with ImmDef attorneys to determine what the clients' needs are beyond legal representation, and which outside resources may be most helpful to them.
Policy and Advocacy
The right to due process is basic to our democracy, ensuring equal access to justice. Immigrants in the United States without documents face differing and complex systems of law. Because deportation proceedings are considered civil, not criminal in nature, no right to appointed counsel exists.
ImmDef recently has advocated with California elected officials to encourage the creation of a publicly-funded program to provide appointed counsel for indigent immigrants facing deportation. These advocacy efforts have grown following the 2016 presidential election as we expect federal government enforcement efforts to intensify. The time is now for California to show the rest of the nation who we are and what values we hold dear: inclusivity, due process, and justice for all.
Immigrants who cannot afford an attorney should not have to face the immigration judge alone. ImmDef works with lawmakers at all levels to extend the right to government-appointed representation in all cases in immigration court, so that they will have a fighting chance to defend themselves in a bewilderingly complicated system.