Editorial Law and Policy

Grassroots Legal Stars Working to Battle Trump’s Attacks on Immigrants and Refugees (Updated)

Jodi Jacobson & Laura Huss

As a manmade disaster continues to play out in the wake of Trump's immigration orders, your support can fund organizations defending the rights of immigrants and refugees.

On January 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order effectively banning Muslims refugees and immigrants from seven countries from entering the United States. The order, which was not clearly written and not vetted by any of the implementing agencies, resulted in the airport detention of green card holders, people with valid visas, and refugees (some as young as months-old babies) by Customs and Border Protection. Chaos erupted as customs officers refused to communicate even with a few U.S. congresspersons and senators who went to airports nationwide to ensure the rights of those held in detention were observed.

As the chaos continued and massive protests erupted throughout the country over the following days, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and numerous other, smaller organizations camped out at airports and filed injunctions to halt the ban. The lawyers, as many noted, became the saviors.

Contributions have been flowing to the ACLU to support its important work. At the same time, many less well-recognized, smaller legal organizations are supporting the effort to protect the rights of refugees and immigrants in this moment of crisis but get far less attention and therefore far fewer donations. They also need increased capacity and ongoing support.

As a start, we have listed below groups recommended by trusted colleagues as dynamic organizations doing important work. This is not and is not meant to be a comprehensive list. It is just a start and a good faith effort to get the dollars flowing. We will continue to update it, so please check back to see additions. Moreover, in the coming days, we will be publishing lists, grouped by function, of other organizations working to secure the rights of all persons in this moment of national crisis. Email us at RewireOrgRecs@rewire.news to let us know about other groups we should look into. Last updated: Monday, February 6, 11:00 a.m.

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  • Advocates for Human Rights: The organization works to “to implement international human rights standards to promote civil society and reinforce the rule of law. By involving volunteers in research, education, and advocacy, we build broad constituencies in the United States and select global communities.” Its work covers a number of issues, including support for refugees and immigrants by providing legal services, advocating for legal reform, and supporting new immigrants.
  • African Services Committee: “African Services is a multiservice agency based in Harlem and dedicated to assisting immigrants, refugees and asylees from across the African Diaspora.” Its “programs address the needs of newcomers affected by war, persecution, poverty, and global health inequalities” and one of its key focus areas is HIV prevention and AIDS treatment access. “African Services Committee provides free civil legal services and immigration representation to people living with HIV. In addition, African Services Committee offers low fee immigration services for immigrants regardless of HIV status.”
  • Arab American Association of New York (AAANY): AAANY is led by executive director Linda Sarsour, one of the lead organizers of the Women’s March and a plaintiff in a new federal case challenging the ban. AAANY works “to support and empower the Arab Immigrant and Arab American community by providing services to help them adjust to their new home and become active members of society.” It provides services that focus on adult education, advocacy & civic engagement, deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), social services, and youth development. As part of its DACA program, AAANY runs a clinic that provides legal and application assistance.
  • Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF): Through litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing on a national scale, “AALDEF focuses on critical issues affecting Asian Americans, including immigrant rights, civic participation and voting rights, economic justice for workers, language access to services, educational equity, housing and environmental justice, and the elimination of anti-Asian violence, police misconduct, and human trafficking.”
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC): AAJC is a national organization located in Washington D.C., dedicated to advancing the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and building a fair and equitable society for all through public education, public policy advocacy, community organizing, and litigation.” AAJC is an affiliation of five organizations based in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., that “work together to provide programs and services to the AAPI community nationwide.”
  • Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC): “AROC is a grassroots organization working to empower and organize our community towards justice and self-determination for all. AROC members build community power in the Bay Area by participating in leadership development, political education, and campaigns.” Through its Arab American Legal Services program, AROC provides pro bono immigration legal services to qualified San Francisco residents.
  • Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal): Providing assistance to clients in seven counties in and around the Bay Area, “BayLegal’s mission is to provide meaningful access to the civil justice system through quality legal assistance regardless of a client’s location, language or disability.” It “provides low-income clients with free civil legal assistance, including legal advice and counsel, effective referrals, and legal representation.”
  • Casa Ruby LGBT Community Center: “Casa Ruby is the only Bilingual Multicultural LGBT Organization providing life saving services and programs to the most vulnerable in the LGBT community.” Operating a drop-in community center in Washington, D.C., Casa Ruby runs the following programs: “hot meals, clothing exchange, cyber center, support groups, case management, emergency housing referrals, and legal services counseling (criminal/immigration).”
  • Central American Refugee Center: “The Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN-NY) is a nonprofit providing immigration legal services and advocacy for immigrants on Long Island.” The organization’s legal services assist individuals and families with the following issues: accessing the pathway to citizenship, family petitions, adjustment of status, deferred action for child arrivals (DACA), and temporary protected status (TPS).
  • Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR): CCR’s wide-ranging work “is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” One of its topical litigation focus areas is addressing abusive immigration practices. CCR is currently challenging “the religious profiling and illegal detention of Muslim, South Asian, and Arab immigrants”; providing direct legal support to activists; and publicizing the expansion of immigration enforcement and privatized detention as key features of mass incarceration.
  • Centro Legal de la Raza: “Centro Legal de la Raza is a comprehensive legal services agency protecting and advancing the rights of immigrant, low-income, and Latino communities through bilingual legal representation, education, and advocacy. By combining quality legal services with know-your-rights education and youth development, Centro Legal promotes access to justice for thousands of individuals and families each year throughout Northern and Central California.”
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): “CAIR’s mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” With headquarters in Washington, D.C., CAIR is the largest Muslim civil liberties organization in the United States. “CAIR’s civil rights department counsels, mediates and advocates on behalf of Muslims and others who have experienced religious discrimination, defamation or hate crimes. The department works to protect and defend the constitutional rights of American Muslims, thereby supporting the rights of all Americans.”
  • CUNY CLEAR (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility): “The CLEAR project primarily aims to address the unmet legal needs of Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and other communities in the New York City area that are particularly affected by national security and counter-terrorism policies and practices. CLEAR is rooted in CUNY School of Law’s relationship with community-based organizations whose members wish to shape and respond to national security and counter-terrorism policies and practices affecting them.” It offers the following services: legal representation and consultation, know-your-rights presentations, community organizing support, and strategic litigation.
  • DRUM – South Asian Organizing Center: DRUM “is a multigenerational, membership-led organization of low-wage South Asian immigrant workers and youth in New York City.” DRUM’s “long-term vision is to build the power of immigrant workers in the United States in unity with all workers and communities for human rights.” DRUM provides legal and community services; it also runs a racial and immigrant justice program engaging in local and national campaigns in partnership and through alliances with other organizations and groups.
  • HIAS: “HIAS stands for a world in which refugees find welcome, safety, and freedom.” Its work focuses on protecting refugees, supporting refugees in the process of resettlement, and advocating for refugee protection. HIAS operates a headquarters office in Silver Spring, Maryland as well as an office in New York City, but also has a number of resettlement partners scattered across the United States. HIAS offers legal expertise to “ensure that refugees are advised of their rights, are provided with detailed information about eligibility and the process of seeking asylum, and that trained legal counsel is secured for them at no or reduced expense.”
  • Hudson Valley Justice Center (HVJC): “The mission of the Hudson Valley Justice Center is to provide free legal services to immigrants so that they may achieve economic and social justice. HVJC provides free consultations, information, advice and counsel, direct representation, and community education” focusing in the areas of immigration, housing, benefits, and employment wage/theft in Yonkers, New York.
  • Immigration Equality: Immigration Equality is an advocacy and direct legal service organization for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ), and HIV-positive immigrants seeking safety, fair treatment, and freedom.”
  • Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM): “ILCM occupies a unique niche among nonprofit immigration legal service providers because of the breadth of immigration legal services available, our capacity to represent clients throughout the state, and our ability to work with clients of all nationalities.” It works using a “three-pronged model—direct legal services, education, and advocacy—which allows ILCM to comprehensively respond to and prevent immigration legal problems.”
  • International Institute of the Bay Area: “The International Institute of the Bay Area (IIBA) provides high-quality immigration legal services, education, and civic engagement opportunities to immigrants, refugees, and their families as they join and contribute to the community.” IIBA operates six offices in and around the Bay area providing citizen services and classes, services to reunite families, protection for undocumented victims of violent crime, and deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) application assistance.
  • International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP): IRAP “organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a system of legal and human rights for refugees through a combination of direct legal aid and systemic advocacy.” It is “dedicated to providing comprehensive legal aid to refugees seeking resettlement, providing representation for those who have none and helping vulnerable families and refugees navigate the complex rules and processes of the international resettlement system.” IRAP played a key role in organizing attorneys and representing those detained at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City after the executive order. The two male plaintiffs at the center of the petition filed against President Trump on Saturday, which later led to a Brooklyn judge blocking part of the executive order, were originally clients of IRAP.
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC): IRC “helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and regain control of their future.” Following the ban, IRC initiated its “first-ever emergency appeal focused exclusively on aiding refugees already in the United States and supporting the critical services IRC provides to ensure the newest Americans—most of which are women and children—can reclaim their lives.” IRC runs a Pathways to Citizenship program that “strives to ensure equal protection under the law and civic integration of refugees and immigrants by assisting them to achieve U.S. citizenship.” IRC’s international headquarters are in New York City, but it does work globally and in 17 states across the United States.
  • Legal Aid Justice Center: “The Legal Aid Justice Center battles poverty and injustice by solving critical legal problems for individuals and communities.” It is “committed to providing a full range of services to our clients, including services our federal and state governments choose not to fund.” Through its Immigrant Advocacy Program, it offers “free legal assistance to low-income immigrants in the areas of employment, consumer, and housing law.” The Legal Aid Justice Center was the group of instrumental lawyers who filed and received the temporary restraining order in the case at Dulles Airport.
  • Legal Aid – Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid: Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid “lawyers give a voice to those who may not otherwise be heard by providing the highest quality legal help to our clients, who are often among the most vulnerable families and individuals in the community.” Additionally, it works to “seek changes in policies and systems that ease the way for many others.”
  • Legal Services for Children (LSC): LSC “provides free representation to children and youth who require legal assistance to stabilize their lives and realize their full potential.” LSC represents children in Northern California in immigration cases, including those that are being detained and deportation proceedings.
  • Make the Road New York (MRNY): MRNY “builds the power of Latino and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, transformative education, and survival services.” One arm of MRNY’s work is its Department of Legal & Survival Services that “employs 22 attorneys and 14 advocates specializing in employment, housing, public benefits, immigration and civil rights, and 21 staff members who support access to health care, food stamps and good nutrition. Together, they serve 9,000 families annually.”
  • Muslim Advocates: Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths. Muslim Advocates works to empower communities and fights hate and discrimination with legal advocacy. Since the executive order was signed, Muslim Advocates has released resources to help educate Muslim communities.
  • National Immigration Law Center (NILC): NILC is “dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants” and uses impact litigation, policy analysis and advocacy, strategic communications, and other strategies to achieve this goal. It believes “that all people who live in the United States—regardless of their race, gender, immigration and/or economic status—should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.”
  • National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild: “The National Immigration Project is a national nonprofit that provides legal assistance and technical support to immigrant communities, legal practitioners, and advocates working to advance the rights of noncitizens.” It “works both independently and collaboratively with immigration advocacy organizations throughout the country in order to educate and strengthen the capacity of immigration professionals while promoting public policy change through direct advocacy.”
  • New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC): “The NYIC promotes immigrants’ full civic participation, fosters their leadership, and provides a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities” in the following ways: It represents the collective interests of New York’s diverse immigrant communities and organizations and devise solutions to advance them; advocates for laws, policies and programs that lead to justice and opportunity for all immigrant groups; and builds the power of immigrants and the organizations that serve them to ensure their sustainability, to improve people’s lives and to strengthen our state.”
  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project: “Northwest Immigrant Rights Project promotes justice by defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education.” In addition to engaging in impact litigation, its comprehensive and direct immigration legal services comes at no cost on the following key issues: asylum, domestic violence, family services, children and youth, citizenship, deferred action and DACA, and detention and deportation defense.
  • Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center: “The Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center (PIRC) works to provide access to justice for vulnerable immigrants in detention and in the community through legal services, education and advocacy. … PIRC provides free, effective legal representation, legal services, education and advocacy to help immigrants obtain or protect their legal status.”
  • SEPA Mujer: Based on and serving Long Island, New York, SEPA Mujer works with individuals and in partnership with immigrant rights, civil rights, and domestic violence-based organizations to bring “together community members and advocates to speak out against injustice, provide access to opportunities and services, take a stand against violence against women and other abuses and push for social change.” SEPA Mujer provides legal services and programs for “adult immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking.”
  • Sikh Coalition: The Sikh Coalition “has defended Sikh civil liberties in the courtroom, classroom, community and halls of Congress. Whether it’s working to secure safer schools, prevent hate and discrimination, create equal employment opportunities, or empower local Sikh communities, the Sikh Coalition’s goal is working towards a world where Sikhs, and other religious minorities in America, may freely practice their faith without bias and discrimination.” It works at the local, state, and federal levels to litigate “matters that address post 9/11 discrimination.”
  • Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) – Immigrant Justice Project: Through litigation, education, and various methods of strategic advocacy, SPLC fights bigotry and seeks justice through a number of topical projects. SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project, based in Atlanta, works “to stop workplace exploitation and other human rights abuses—filing strategic lawsuits, exposing civil rights violations, educating the public and the media, and pressing the federal government to act.” Through this project, SPLC takes “on cases that few private lawyers will accept, seeking systemic reforms and representing victims of injustice.”
  • Tahirih Justice Center: “Tahirih Justice Center stands alone as the only national, multi-city organization providing a broad range of direct legal services, policy advocacy, and training and education to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing gender-based violence.” Currently, Tahirih Justice Center has four locations: Baltimore, Houston, Bay Area, and the Greater D.C. Area.
  • University of Minnesota Law School’s Center for New Americans: “The University of Minnesota Law School’s Center for New Americans expands urgently needed legal services for noncitizens, pursues litigation to improve our nation’s immigration laws, and supports noncitizens in the region through education and community outreach.” Based in Minneapolis, the School for New Americans runs three legal clinics: the Federal Immigration Litigation Clinic, Detainee Rights Clinic, and the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic, as well as an integrated education and outreach program.
  • Worker Justice Center of New York: “The Worker Justice Center of New York pursues justice for those denied human rights with a focus on agricultural and other low-wage workers, through legal representation, community empowerment and advocacy for institutional change.”

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