June 6, 2018 – The recent uncertainty surrounding United States immigration policy and law has made keeping current on these issues more onerous.
As a lawyer, you may receive inquiries from immigrant clients that are outside of the legal scope and veer into social services. A well-prepared attorney is able to answer questions from both angles. Numerous federal and local organizations offer resources to help you with the complicated issues faced by various immigrant groups in the United States.
The obvious place to begin is with U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS allows users to file for and track the status of their applications for Permanent Resident Cards (Green Cards) online. Additional online filing options include I-90 for replacement Green Cards, I-131A application for travel documents, and Form N-400 applications for naturalization. You’ll also find study materials for all areas of the naturalization exam, along with the Employee Authorization Documents (EAD) Form I-765 and instructions.
The U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) offers resources and practice manuals for attorneys practicing before the Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. The EOIR also hosts a virtual law library and a section with the forms you need for filing with the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Find information on visas and international adoption on the Travel.State.Gov, a website hosted by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs.
National Nonprofit Agencies
The American Immigration Council “promotes laws, policies and attitudes that honor our proud history as a nation of immigrants.” The council collects and organizes fact sheets and reports on topics like H-4 Visa classification, DACA, asylum issues, and the economic impact of immigrants. Through policy analysis and research, litigation and cultural exchange the American Immigration Council attempts to influence the perception of the 21st century immigrant experience.
Sarah Kober is the assistant librarian at Godfrey & Kahn SC, Madison. She received her MLIS from UW-Milwaukee in 2009. Kober is a current member of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin (LLAW), a chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries. LLAW's Public Relations Committee coordinates regular contributions by its members to InsideTrack.
The Immigration Advocates Network registered users (who are representing a low-income immigrant or practicing pro bono) may access the Pro Bono Resource Center, which includes a library of materials, access to immigration-related elists, webinars, and podcasts.
Within this website is ImmigrationlawHelp.org, where you can search for immigration help by state or detention center. Users can also search by the type of assistance provided, the populations served, and languages spoken.
The Immigration Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a “national nonprofit resource center that provides immigration legal trainings, technical assistance and educational materials and engages in advocacy and immigrant civic engagement to advance immigrant rights.” This resource is noteworthy because it contains information pertinent to the LBGTQ immigrant community. The ILRC also offers up-to-date information, seminars, webinars, and recordings for immigration legal services providers.
Religious Organizations – Statewide assistance
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) offers services to unaccompanied children, refugees, and migrants relating to “protection, integration, justice, and stability.” A service offered by LIRS is the torture survivor legal services and network, which gives legal representation to torture survivors confined within the immigration detention system. LIRS also provides long-term foster care to unaccompanied refugee and migrant children and provides family reunification programming.
The Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Refugee & Immigrant Services offers welcoming and resettlement services to refugees including lodging, food, clothing, school enrollment, English lessons, and job placement help.
Milwaukee Area Resources
Voces de la Frontera offers classes on obtaining citizenship and English, and hosts free legal clinics on Saturdays. Voces, an accredited Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) agency, provides low cost services to immigrants within its Caminos Legal Clinic. Additional offerings include information and training on issues like worker’s rights, DACA, driver’s licenses, and immigration raids.
United Community Center (UCC) is a “comprehensive social service agency” located in Milwaukee’s near south side. The UCC offers home-buying counseling services in English and Spanish. It also has the only bilingual (English/Spanish) substance use disorder treatment program in Wisconsin.
Hmong American Friendship Association Inc. (HAFA) provides citizenship help and translation services for Hmong speakers. Other services include home buying assistance and job placement help. HAFA also operates a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program to help Southeast Asian survivors of these crimes through counseling, support groups, and mediation.
International Institute of Wisconsin (IIW) offers “low-cost legal immigration and citizenship services, such as adjustment status for refugees and non-refugees, travel documents, petitions for family members, and naturalization.” The IIW also provides document translation services in more than 50 languages and provides spoken language interpreters.
Catholic Charities Milwaukee’s Refugee Resettlement Services program offers assistance with securing housing, furniture, food, clothing, and transportation to doctor appointments and social service agencies, and English classes. Legal offerings include a listing of local (Milwaukee-area) immigration-based attorneys.
Madison Area Resources
Community Immigration Law Clinic (CILC) offers a free consultation clinic for immigrants every second and fourth Friday of the month. Additional outreach services include “Know Your Rights” training for incarcerated and nonincarcerated persons, and immigration training for volunteer lawyers.
The Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison offers an immigration legal services program with staff who speak English, Russian, Spanish, Urdu, and Portuguese.
Jewish Social Services of Madison (JSS) provides resettlement services for refugees including case management, connection to employment services, English classes, and document translation. JSS also provides legal services in Arabic, Russian, and Spanish.
Centro Hispano Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is accredited to assist with applying for Permanent Residency Citizenship (Green Card), work permits, status adjustments, and DACA issues.
Fox Valley Resources
World Relief provides assistance to refuges with family reunification applications, travel document applications, and obtaining Green Cards. World Relief also offers resettlement services for refugees.
Diocese of Green Bay offers resettlement services and immigration counseling services with officers who are partially accredited with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).
A Need for More than Legal Services
Diverse immigrant groups require different types of services – some need legal representation and a place to sleep. Clients are best served by well-informed attorneys who are able to navigate the complex and ever-changing reality that is immigration law and policy in the United States.
Clients are even better served when they are given information related to social services options available in addition to legal strategies.