July 18, 2018 About Us

About the Immigration Justice Project (IJP) of San Diego

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

    Commission on Immigration

    Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements,

    Section of Litigation,

    Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service

    Judicial Division

    Advisory Board

    Stacie Devitt
    Advisory Board Chair

    Fausta Albi
    Larrabee Albi Coker LLP

    Mazda Antia
    Cooley LLP

    Teresa Beck
    Lincoln, Gustafson, & Cercos, LLP

    Shireen M. Becker
    Jones Day

    Susan Drake
    Former Executive Director
    National Immigration Law Center

    Karen T. Grisez
    Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP

    Kristin Housh
    Latham & Watkins LLP

    Everard Meade
    University of San Diego Trans-Border Institute

    Harvey Saferstein

    Miko Tokuhama-Olsen
    Legal Aid Society of San Diego

    Christopher Young
    DLA Piper

    Project Funders

    The ABA Immigration Justice Project extends our gratitude to the following firms, individuals, and foundations for their contributions during 2011.


    IJP Grant Funders

    U.S. Department of Justice / Vera Institute for Justice
    ABA Section of Litigation Reserves Fund
    ABA Enterprise Fund
    San Diego County Bar Association
    Lawyer’s Club Fund for Justice
    American Immigration Lawyers Association, San Diego Chapter


    IJP Donors

    Gold Level, $5,000
    DLA Piper, LLP
    Jones Day
    Qualcomm

    Silver Level, $2,500
    Cooley LLP
    Latham & Watkins LLP
    Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, LLP

    Bronze Level, $1,000
    Larrabee Mehlman Albi Coker LLP
    Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP
    Susan and Paul Drake
    Ginger Jacobs & David Schlesinger

    $500 Level
    Employee Rights Center


    The IJP is very grateful to the law firm of
    DLA Piper, LLP
    for its generosity in donating office space.