About Us

History and Mission


In early 2008, the American Bar Association (ABA) launched an innovative pro bono immigration pilot project in San Diego, California pursuant to a seed grant from the ABA Enterprise Fund.  The mission of the IJP is to promote due process and access to justice at all levels of the immigration and appellate court system, through the provision of high-quality pro bono legal services for those in immigration proceedings in San Diego. Partnering in the project are several ABA entities,* the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the federal courts, Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM), the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the private bar. The IJP serves both detained and non-detained individuals, and recruits, trains, and mentors volunteer attorneys and law students representing clients. Through funding from the EOIR, the IJP has also implemented a Legal Orientation Program for adult immigration detainees. ISIM is conducting a study to evaluate IJP's impact on the immigration court and appellate process.  

With no right to government-funded counsel and a high indigence rate, many appear in immigration proceedings pro se. The lack of representation has dramatic consequences, particularly for those fleeing persecution abroad or facing separation from family in the United States. The IJP aims not only to increase access to counsel for immigrants, but to benefit the judicial system as a whole; legal representation results in higher appearance rates, and more fair, efficient, accurate, and consistent decision-making. The number of immigration appeals has skyrocketed in recent years, and the lack of representation places a great strain on the federal courts - more than 50% of all immigration appeals are handled by the Ninth Circuit alone. In addition, “Notarios” claiming to be immigration lawyers or specialists, who prey upon unsuspecting individuals, are increasingly prevalent in the San Diego area and the IJP aims to expand the scope and quality of representation for those who might otherwise become their victims.

The mission of the IJP is to promote due process and access to justice at all levels of the immigration and appellate court system, through the provision of high-quality pro bono legal services for those in immigration proceedings in San Diego. The IJP serves both detained and non-detained individuals, and recruits, trains and mentors volunteer attorneys and law students representing clients.


*ABA entity partners are: Commission on Immigration, Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements, Section of Litigation, Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, Judicial Division.

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