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Illinois Legal Community Unites to Address Current Immigration Crisis

As new arrivals continue to come to Illinois from the U.S.-Mexico border, many Illinois legal aid organizations are assisting them to ensure they have access to the rights they are entitled to and empowering them with information. There are a variety of ways that you can help. Please continue to come back to this page as we update it with additional information and opportunities.

Volunteer Opportunities in Chicago

In partnership with the city, state and federal governments as well as many other agencies, The Resurrection Project is organizing large-scale workshops assisting newly arrived migrants with obtaining Employment Authorization and Temporary Protected Status. This is an area of great need and will make a big difference for the arriving migrants.  The Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) is helping coordinate pro bono attorney involvement in the workshops, which need a combination of attorneys with and without immigration experience, and while Spanish-speakers are needed, non-Spanish speakers can volunteer as well. Legal professionals are also needed. Over 3,000 migrants received legal screenings through the end of January. After a short break, workshops are starting again on Tuesday, February 20th. Workshops are taking place every Tuesday-Friday through May and volunteers are needed to meet the increased need. Migrants who are or have received housing support from the city or state, and are eligible for TPS or EAD, can attend.

All workshops will take place at one location in a federal building downtown. There are two shift options of 8:30am-1:00pm and 12:30pm-5:00pm or you are welcome to volunteer for the whole day. Your role will vary depending on your immigration law experience and whether you speak Spanish, but you need not have either experience to volunteer. You can also arrange a group to volunteer from your law firm or corporation. Please contact Linda Rio at the CBF if you are interested in that option or have any questions about the TRP workshops.

Otherwise for more information and to volunteer please sign up here. A training link and materials will be sent to you once you sign up, and there is an on-site orientation the day of the workshop. Lunch is provided. The Resurrection Project will enter into a Limited Scope Agreement with each applicant and will provide malpractice insurance.

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) has been at the forefront of welcoming recently arrived migrants and responding to an unprecedented need for immigration legal services. NIJC is working in partnership with the city and state governments, pro bono partners, other legal aid providers and the Chicago Bar Foundation to develop legal service delivery models, training materials and video recordings to respond to the ever-growing need for legal counsel and representation. The organization continues to provide legal information to hundreds of new arrivals each month through NIJC’s Chicago Immigration Court Helpdesk to help them understand their rights and the court system.

For those with complex cases, NIJC conducts legal screenings and aims to accept these cases for representation. NIJC is collaborating with legal aid partner organizations to provide high volume application assistance and share our legal expertise through training and support. NIJC is also providing legal representation in house for individuals who are not eligible to participate in the high-volume application clinics. Finally, NIJC, in partnership with pro bono law firms, created a “Primeros Pasos” program that assists individuals who have limited knowledge of how to move forward with their cases.  These programs provide information to individuals regarding filing a change of venue if their case is scheduled for hearing in a court outside of Chicago, preparing change of address forms and appearing for check-ins with the immigration authorities, ICE.

To learn more about NIJC, visit their website.

Volunteer Opportunities Outside Chicago

There are also immigrants needing assistance in other areas of Illinois, as they travel beyond Chicago. The Immigration Project (TIP) has numerous pro bono opportunities in the upcoming year, many of which require only one-day commitments from attorneys as well as those with some legal expertise such as paralegals and legal assistants. TIP will provide all necessary training, and that training usually occurs the morning of or by a less than one hour call or recording distributed in advance. These meaningful opportunities will help immigrants throughout Illinois gain stability and security in their lives.

One day commitments: TIP hosts monthly naturalization clinics for clients throughout their vast service area to apply for citizenship in a one stop model. These one-day commitments are hosted on Fridays in the Normal or Champaign Office spaces. In addition to assisting those in their final step of the immigration process,  TIP is hosting Asylum and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) workshops similar to those in Chicago in various locations. TIP also travels throughout the state to assist those again through a one-day workshop model to apply for asylum and get general advice about their immigration process and claims.

Full representation pro bono opportunities: TIP is the sole legal service provider for a children’s detention center in Central Illinois. As a result of this relationship, TIP frequently represents children who are detained or recently detained who are survivors of abandonment, abuse, or neglect. These children frequently need orders from State Court judges to determine custody or guardianship orders. Pro bono attorneys can play an essential role in obtaining these orders so that these children can secure immigration relief inside of the US and gain stability in their lives, sometimes for the first time.

If you are interested in assisting TIP in any way, please email Marie Joe Noon. TIP welcomes any assistance you are able to provide given their vast service area and the desperate need of those they serve.

Posted in Pro Bono, Pro Bono Opportunities, Pro Bono Spotlights.