Immigration Nonprofits

Immigration Nonprofits that support immigrants focus on both community-building and advocacy. These organizations challenge discriminatory legislation that compromises immigrant rights, through impact litigation and messaging campaigns.

They also help families find safe and affordable housing. Many of them provide legal representation and other services at a reduced cost. This is especially important in geographic areas with few or no authorized immigration providers.

Non-Legal Assistance

Many immigration non-profits offer a range of services outside the realm of legal assistance. Organizations such as Kits for Peace provide bags of necessities like blankets, toiletries and clothing to those in need. Other organizations offer support groups for people navigating their immigration status or for those dealing with domestic violence or sexual assault.

Other organizations focus on community-building through refugee resettlement, economic empowerment and education, and providing access to legal counsel for immigrant families. The Diocese of Olympia’s refugee resettlement programs in Seattle are a model for this work, while CRRN in Rochester offers refugees and asylum seekers support and services such as English classes, free legal screenings conducted by volunteer lawyers, and referrals to non-legal service providers.

Some immigration non-profits are independent of a parent agency, which provides flexibility with regard to fundraising and program management. However, independent agencies must also be mindful of the extra start-up costs of forming a nonprofit corporate structure and obtaining tax-exempt status.

Family Services

Many immigration non-profits serve clients with family needs that may include social services, employment assistance, financial counseling, and education. They also provide food, shelter and clothing to migrant families in need.

Nonprofits in border communities coordinate with governmental agencies to support migrant families. They arrange transportation and supplies to help migrants reintegrate into their community. They also work to inform local communities on issues impacting migrants and their families.

Many faith-based networks are focusing on migrant advocacy in the form of direct legal representation, administrative advocacy directed at government agencies, and messaging to the media. They are often aided by national programs funded through the Department of Homeland Security. Those who are new to the field of immigration law can benefit from attending a training offered by an established organization. They can learn best practices, strategies and tools for meeting the challenges of a changing immigration landscape. They can also connect with other nonprofits offering similar services and identify a network of resources.

Affordable Housing

Asylum seekers who arrive in cities often face challenges finding affordable housing. Providing affordable and secure housing can help ease the pressure on city homeless shelter systems. Moreover, facilitating access to affordable housing is crucial for asylum seekers to build a strong foundation for achieving self-sufficiency.

Various government programs offer housing assistance for noncitizens, including refugees and asylees. These programs are particularly useful for individuals who may be unable to use public housing or may not have a social security number or other form of identification.

Many refugee-led and integration support organizations have a focus on housing. For example, African Services provides social, health and housing support for newcomers from the African Diaspora in New York. The organization also offers education, employment and community outreach initiatives.

Legal Counsel

Many immigration non-profits provide pro-bono or low cost legal representation to those who cannot afford full immigration law services. They may be part of a larger, parent agency or operate independently. Independent programs have more start-up costs and management responsibilities, but can enjoy greater flexibility when it comes to priority setting and program operation.


A new immigration program should establish a relationship with an immigration law training resource such as CLINIC to obtain basic information on the immigration process, legal precedents and policy issues. It also should establish relationships with local and national pro-immigration organizations to increase its visibility and credibility in the community.

Some nonprofit agencies, especially those that are not staffed by attorneys, seek BIA recognition and accreditation to be able to represent clients before USCIS and the BIA. This involves submitting proof of non-profit status, staff rosters and caseloads and providing references. Many of these programs also purchase malpractice insurance for their staffs.

Eric Sara
the authorEric Sara