Immigrant rights organization which seeks unrestricted access to welfare programs for immigrants
Works in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of low-income immigrants, with a focus on gaining them unrestricted access to government-funded social welfare programs on the same basis as legal U.S. citizens. In its early years, this organization was a key player in the sanctuary movement, helping Central American refugees during the 1980s find asylum and jobs in the United States. Today NILC is headquartered in Los Angeles but also maintains offices in Oakland and Washington, DC. It has doubled its staff in the wake of what it believes are the "draconian restrictions on immigrants' rights imposed by the 1996 welfare and immigration laws."
NILC's programs include the following:
Policy Analysis & Advocacy: This program “develops in-depth analyses of proposed legislative and regulatory changes that [immigration] advocates and policymakers rely on for accurate, insightful information; … disseminates timely updates and alerts, convenes on-going workgroups of national advocacy organizations and community agencies, and coordinates strategic responses to policy changes.”
Building Coalitions & Capacity: “When authority for implementing welfare policy was devolved to the states in 1996, NILC established formal collaborative relationships with nine state and local immigrant advocacy organizations in California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, and Washington. Together, these states account for almost three-quarters of the immigrant population in the U.S.”
Technical Assistance: Each month NILC attorneys respond to nearly 500 requests for legal advice and analysis from legal services attorneys, health and social service providers, government workers, community organizers, and legislative staffers. The organization regularly provides technical review for such research and advocacy groups as the AFL-CIO, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Urban Institute, and individual labor unions.
Trainings and Conferences: NILC conducts more than 80 trainings and conference presentations annually throughout the United States, educating “attorneys and advocates about substantive laws and policies affecting their immigrant clients,” and “bring[ing] the perspective of low-income immigrants to national audiences, such as those attending the annual conferences of the Children's Defense Fund, the National Association of Community Clinics, and the National Council of State Legislatures.”
Publications: NILC publishes reference manuals and analyses for nonprofit agencies working on immigration and related employment and public benefits issues. These publications include: Immigrants' Rights Update, a newsletter focused on changes in policy, legislation, and case law affecting low-income immigrants; California Update – California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative, a newsletter that explains the latest developments in California regarding immigrants and welfare; and E-mail Benefits Update, which analyzes proposed legislative and administrative changes in the public benefits laws.
NILC is a sponsoring organization of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition, which seeks to secure ever-expanding civil rights and liberties protections for illegal immigrants, and advocates policy reforms that diminish or eliminate restrictions on future immigration. NILC also supports the DREAM Act, a bill whose objective is to grant full legal status to illegal aliens who came to the U.S. as minors and have since graduated from high school.
NILC was a signatory to a March 17, 2003 letter exhorting members of the U.S. Congress to oppose Patriot Act II on grounds that it "contain[ed] a multitude of new and sweeping law enforcement and intelligence gathering powers … that would severely dilute, if not undermine, many basic constitutional rights." In addition, NILC has given its organizational endorsement to the Community Resolution to Protect Civil Liberties campaign, which tries to influence city councils to pass resolutions to be non-compliant with the provisions of the Patriot Act. NILC also endorsed the Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004, which was designed to roll back, in the name of protecting civil liberties, vital national-security policies that had been adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
NILC also receives financial backing from the State Bar of California’s Legal Services Trust Fund Program, and from the U.S. Department of Justice. As of 2005, NILC’s net assets were $1,561,752. That year, the organization received $1,810,688 in grants.
Since 1991 NILC's Board Chairwoman has been Iris Gomez, who previously was a Senior Attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. She has also worked as a law school lecturer, a public defender, and a farm worker lawyer.
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