In response to the urgent needs of immigrants in Chicago seeking humanitarian protection or lawful status, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced a $250,000 grant to the DePaul University College of Law’s Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic. The gift will help expand the clinic’s legal assistance to immigrant-serving community-based organizations and a student translator corps with the goal of expanding access to much-needed reliable information on immigrant rights and remedies in Illinois.
“This support will help us provide an immediate response to the current attack on refugees and immigrants caused by national policies that prioritize enforcement and punishment over protection,” says clinic director Sioban Albiol. She adds, “These funds will help the clinic provide timely and reliable information on immigration rights to first-responder organizations that are on the front lines serving immigrants in the Chicago area.” The foundation specifically recognizes the clinic and Albiol as a leader in providing immigration counseling and representation for removal defense—helping those who face deportation.
Law students are central to the clinic’s work and are involved with every aspect of asylum cases, explains Albiol. The grant also offers support for the Translator and Interpreter Corps, a group of DePaul student volunteers providing pro bono translation and interpretation services, housed in Modern Languages. The program reduces language barriers to accessing legal services for low-income immigrants and refugees and has helped 186 clients since its launch in 2015.
The MacArthur Foundation’s gift to the College of Law is part of a nearly $2 million package that supports a dozen local organizations serving immigrants. The clinic also recently received grants from the Lawyers Trust Fund and the Julian Grace Foundation who provide critical support to expand the depth and scope of legal services available to low-income immigrants in underserved areas.
“Our country is failing to fulfill its obligations under federal immigration statutes that require fair and humane treatment and opportunities for families and children seeking asylum,” said Tara Magner, director of MacArthur Foundation’s Chicago Commitment grant making. ”Organizations in Chicago and across Illinois have responded to this significant need for humanitarian support. They are providing legal screening and representation for asylum seekers and others who are targeted by federal policies. MacArthur is honored to support them.”
Albiol says the MacArthur support comes at a critical time and builds on the work begun in 1999, when thanks to support from the Lawyers Trust Fund, Polk Bros. Foundation and Chicago Bar Foundation, the clinic launched its immigration technical assistance project. Thanks to support of the Illinois Funders Collaborative, the clinic has been able to enhance the capacity of immigrant-serving organizations through an ever-changing legal landscape including the announcement of DACA and threats to the DACA program.
The clinic works with community-based organizations that are seeking accreditation with the Department of Justice and keeps these partners informed about changes to immigration law and policy. In 2017, 58 staff from 21 organizations attended the clinic’s trainings on removal defense, and in 2018 Albiol started a new alliance to bolster attorneys’ court skills and knowledge for removal cases. Since joining the clinic in 2001, Albiol has expanded the Legal Resources Project’s reach from seven to 31 partner agencies. She has represented low-income immigrants for more than 20 years.
“I am proud that the Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic has become a respected resource of immigration advocacy here in Chicago, and I am grateful to my colleagues in the Clinic—Nicole Minnis, Michael Santomauro, Esmeralda Villela, Jenny Freundt, and all of our funders for their generous support of our work,” says Albiol.