The Immigration Project is the principal provider of non-profit immigration, legal services in Central and Southern Illinois. We are staffed by experienced immigration attorneys and excellent support professionals.
The mission of the Immigration Project is to improve access to affordable, high quality immigrant legal services in downstate Illinois. The Immigration Project strives to protect families of immigrants by providing legal assistance. We do this because no family should be torn apart or have to suffer or fear deportation. Keeping families together is our number one priority.
Geographic Service Area
The Immigration Project serves immigrants that live in communities across a large geographic region—approximately 120,000 square miles in central and southern Illinois. We also assist immigrants who live in bordering states—Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, and Indiana—who come to us for services.
A Rural-Regional Approach
The greatest challenge we face is the rural nature of our program. We serve the 5% of Illinois’ immigrants who reside in the 85 counties in Central and Southern Illinois. Seventy five of those counties have fewer than 3,499 immigrants.
To bridge the geographic gap, we conduct regionalclinics in communities such as Kankakee, Moline, Fairmont City and Carbondale where higher concentrations of immigrants reside; we also have regular presence in our Champaign office. This makes travel our largest single program expense. But face-to-face contact with clients improves everyone’s access to accurate information and nurtures confidence and trust.
We also use video-conferencing technology extensively, both to expand our accessibility to communities with smaller concentrations of immigrants and for the detailed interviews required to prepare individual applications.
The Immigration Project employs five full-time staff members: Executive Director/Senior Staff Attorney, three staff attorneys, and a Capacity and Volunteer Development Director.
The Immigration Project’s Board of Directors is a diverse group of people who are responsible for the strategic direction of the organization.
The Immigration Project has its roots in the Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Ministries’ (IRIM) down-state Immigration Project. That project began operating in Springfield nearly thirty years ago as a Qualified Designated Entity authorized by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to offer low cost application assistance during the Immigration amnesties that followed passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
When IRIM’s board decided to close the downstate Immigration Project in 1994, two former staff members, Suzanne Brown and Daniel Juarez, recruited a board of directors and formally incorporated as The Immigration Project in January 1995. Because Suzanne and Daniel had previously moved to the St. Louis area where Suzanne was attending law school, the Project was located in the East Metro St. Louis area. From the beginning the Project served clients in communities from Kankakee to Mendota, and down to Cobden. Initially, most services were provided over the phone and by mail, with large scale community outreach meetings to provide information about changes in immigration law and policy.
In 2004 we began offering regional information clinics. As that program expanded, the struggle to balance travel to reach our clients with travel demands on our staff became increasingly difficult. Our travel expenses also ballooned to nearly $40,000 per year, more than doubling our program costs. In 2008, in an effort to reduce costs and improve the quality of life of our staff, we relocated from Granite City to Bloomington. The location of the new office allowed our staff to travel shorter distances while reaching as many immigrants as possible. In 2015, The Immigration Project relocated to a new office in Normal which provided more security for and confidentiality between clients and attorneys and a satellite office was opened in downtown Champaign.
Our Unique Contribution to Immigration Legal Services in Illinois
• We are the only not-for-profit organization in Illinois offering immigration legal assistance through a rural provider model. Charging low fees and covering a large rural area allows us to reach many immigrants who would otherwise have considerable difficulty accessing professional legal advice.
• We conduct more than 40 clinics throughout the downstate Illinois region every year. Our regional approach provides legal assistance to more than 1,000 immigrants from 200 communities in a geographic area that consists of 120,000 square miles.
• We use income guidelines and a sliding fee scale to provide affordable application support services so that low-income immigrants may access citizenship, family reunification, and other primary services.
• In 2012, we served immigrants from 75 countries—as diverse as Bolivia, Scotland, Senegal, Nigeria, El Salvador, Guatemala, Brazil, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, and Mexico.
• The active involvement of our volunteers, who contributed more than 5,000 hours of service in 2012, significantly increased our capacity to provide DACA and Citizenship services.
• Our information aids not only immigrants, but their family members, government officials, social service workers, and employers.
• When immigration laws change, we respond quickly to meet new needs. For example, as soon as President Obama signed into law the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), we offered community education meetings and application assistance to qualified individuals from central and southern Illinois.
• We help immigrant victims of violence, including victims of domestic violence, solve their immigration problems.
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