Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center

Since its founding more than 30 years ago, NIJC has demonstrated an exceptional track record in protecting human rights and access to justice for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. With a staff of 17 attorneys and an unparalleled network of more than 1,000 pro bono attorneys from prominent law firms and corporate legal departments, NIJC has built a national reputation for litigation expertise. Together, we identify structural barriers to justice and work to end egregious abuses in the immigration enforcement and detention systems through direct representation, federal impact litigation, strategic communications, alliance-building, and administrative and legislative reform. As the preeminent source for expert information and analysis on immigration, NIJC’s work is featured in media outlets including The New York TimesLos Angeles Times, and CNN.

NIJC and its pro bono network help more than 10,000 individuals annually. Projects include: Defenders Initiative; Detention, Democracy & Due Process Project; Asylum Project; Gender Justice Initiative; Immigrant Children’s Protection Project; Immigrant Legal Defense Project; and the LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative.

Among its achievements over the past year, NIJC:

THE CASE: Immigration detainers are the lynchpin of ICE’s interior enforcement strategy. The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses detainers to instruct state and local law enforcement (LEA) to keep an individual in custody for up to 48 hours to permit ICE to assume custody. Individuals held by local LEAs are commonly identified for possible removal through fingerprint sharing via the Secure Communities program. These collaborative practices between federal immigration authorities and LEAs trap and isolate thousands of individuals in the immigration detention system, many of whom were identified through routine traffic stops. Yet no policies or procedures exist to ensure the protection of fundamental due process rights. Immigrants who find themselves caught in the immigration detention and deportation pipeline, often as a result of questionable enforcement practices, have no right to court-appointed counsel. This dangerous cooperation relies on and increases racial profiling, which results in the illegal detention of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs). To combat this abuse of power, NIJC filed a class action lawsuit, Jimenez Moreno v. Napolitano, 11-cv-5452 (N.D.Ill.), to challenge the legality of ICE’s use of immigration detainers. Both of the named plaintiffs, Jose Jimenez Moreno, a U.S. citizen, and Maria Jose Lopez, an LPR, were unlawfully subjected to immigration detainers. NIJC defeated DHS’s attempt to dismiss the litigation, conducted extensive discovery, and is currently seeking class certification.

Contact: Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, National Immigrant Justice Center, 208 S. LaSalle Street, Suite 1818, Chicago, IL 60604