Justice & Diversity Center Adds Immigration Legal Defense Work to its Program Lineup

By Carole Conn, Director of Public Service Programs, Immigrant Legal Defense


In the last three years, there has been rapid growth to the Immigrant Legal Defense Program which moved under the Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) umbrella in February of this year. It was previously run by the Lawyer Referral and Information Service at The Bar Association of San Francisco. The Immigration Legal Defense Program now consists of five different immigration projects all focusing on increasing legal representation for immigrants in Northern California.

Growing from a staff of two to a team of six, including two lead immigration attorneys, a part-time attorney, a senior immigration coordinator and two immigration case coordinators, the Immigration Legal Defense Program consists of leadership and coordination roles within three separate removal defense collaboratives. Those three collaboratives are the San Francisco Immigrant Legal Defense Collaborative (SFILDC), the Northern California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (NICCIJ), and the Santa Clara County Immigrant Representation Collaborative for Unaccompanied Minors and Adults with Children. Each of these collaboratives seeks to increase legal representation to unrepresented immigrants in removal proceedings on the non-detained, detained and juvenile dockets at the San Francisco Immigration Court.
A principal component inside this effort is the Pro Bono Attorney of the Day (AOD) Program that provides volunteer immigration attorneys to assist unrepresented immigrants in removal proceedings at their initial master calendar hearings. The long-standing relationship with the San Francisco Immigration Court through the AOD Program dates back 30 years and it is a unique program that other courts have sought to replicate.

Now, in the era of increased immigration enforcement, the Immigrant Legal Defense Program also includes Rapid Attorney Response Coordination as part of two partnerships in the event of immigration enforcement actions. As part of its role within SFILDC, JDC works in partnership with the San Francisco Immigrant Legal Education Network (SFILEN) to coordinate rapid response services in San Francisco. SFILDC and SFILEN consist of 21 partner agencies working together. As the legal lead for the two collaboratives, JDC coordinates the rapid deployment of attorneys to the San Francisco ICE offices in the event that SFILEN confirms that arrests have been made.

In addition, JDC is working separately with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and other organizations to develop a Regional Rapid Response Network, to design a rapid response legal helpline and protocols to respond to enforcement actions within Northern California where county networks are not available. The goal is to deploy volunteer attorneys to assist with emergency response and possibly short-term representation. The legal coordination for this effort will be housed at JDC. JDC has already secured funding for, and hired, a part-time attorney coordinator to build the infrastructure for the Regional Rapid Response Network.

To learn more about the immigration work of the Justice & Diversity Center, visit www.sfbar.org/jdc.