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US Immigration Issues  

Aug 28

If you have immigration issues, you can get immigration help for free in your community. The IRC helps a wide range of immigrants, including people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and other undocumented people, through direct immigration legal representation, 'Know Your Rights' workshops, and advocacy for a pathway to citizenship for all Dreamers. We also provide assistance with accessing public benefits and housing. We are part of the New Americans Campaign, a network of national immigration and service organizations and local agencies that support aspiring citizens in their journey to becoming US residents.

The Campaign has a national database of service providers. Click here to find one in your area.

Until recently, most major federal public benefits programs excluded non-U.S. citizens from eligibility, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp program), nonemergency Medicaid and its predecessor, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. In 1996, Congress enacted legislation that severely restricted immigrant eligibility for these and other benefits, but since that time, some states have been able to restore access to some immigrant families.

Immigration law is a complex field, and the laws are constantly changing. To protect your rights and interests, it is important to seek help from a lawyer who has specialized knowledge in immigration law. The IRC can refer you to free or low-cost attorneys who specialize in helping immigrants. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, ask the judge at your hearing if there is any way you can be released on bond until you can find one.

Several cities have a network of trusted community-based organizations that offer free immigration legal services. In NYC, the city-funded ActionNYC program provides free immigration legal screenings and representation in your language at sites like community centers, health clinics, public schools, libraries, and more.

Many fraudulent immigration service providers may make false promises or charge you money you don't have. Read more about avoiding fraud in the Immigrant Legal Assistance Guide.

Be wary of notario publicos, also known as "immigration consultants." They are not lawyers and do not have government permission to fill out immigration forms or represent you.

If you are being held in a jail for an immigration violation, it is important to talk with your lawyer before talking with an officer and to keep a copy of your immigration documents with you. You can use them to prove your identity if you need to. Don't discuss your immigration status with anyone other than a lawyer and never sign anything without reading it carefully. Ask the officer to explain any charges or sentences and what impact they might have on your immigration status. If you don't understand, ask for an interpreter.