5th Annual National Network Capacity Building Event: Meeting Today’s Needs and Preparing for Future Immigration Reform

May 16, 2014
Jeff Cheoweth

As the nation’s largest network of nonprofit immigration legal programs, CLINIC’s network currently consists of 250 affiliates with 340 office locations in 46 states and continues to grow.  Even as CLINIC’s network expands, however, there are still not enough immigration programs to meet the need for low-cost immigration legal services.

For that need to be met, creating and sustaining more Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recognized agencies with accredited staff, representatives who are authorized like attorneys to practice immigration law, is vital. To ensure that comprehensive immigration reform is successfully implemented, including legalizing up to 11 million undocumented immigrants, it is necessary to boost the number of charitable legal immigration programs engaged in the authorized practice of law.

CLINIC has helped more than 50 nonprofits become BIA recognized over the past two years alone.  Currently, Field Support Coordinators in CLINIC’s Center for Citizenship and Immigrant Communities are working with more nonprofits to increase the number of BIA recognized agencies.  In order to keep pace with the rising need for services and because real reform will extend beyond legal services to encompass a broadening of social services, CLNIC partners with other nonprofits wishing to help implement immigration reform.

On April 22 and 23, CLINIC and World Relief co-hosted a free training in Washington, D.C. for representatives from 14 national networks representing over 15,000 local partners that assist low-income immigrants.  This year’s training was the fifth such event designed to identify where capacity is lacking and can be expanded. Additionally, the training aimed to increase the professionalism and innovation of charitable programs and prepare groups for comprehensive immigration reform implementation.

Maria Yacatayo from Goodwill Industries International was among the participants. She describes the impact of the event: “The conference was instrumental in helping me understand the vital role national nonprofits play in building immigration service capacity. I gained clarity on how we can help nonprofit legal service providers combat immigration service scams by disseminating credible immigration legal information to our network of 165 members.  In addition Goodwill can support new Americans in training for careers and get the supporting services they needed to be successful — such as English languagetraining, additional education, or access to transportation and child care. Last year, Goodwill helped more than 6.7 million people in this capacity.”

Representatives from the Executive Office of Immigration Review, overseeing the BIA, in addition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services were present. They educated attendees and listened to their concerns and recommendations for improved government-nonprofit relations to expand capacity at the local level.

Special attention was given to each attending network’s plans for building capacity in ways that play to each network’s strengths.  Attendees were challenged to: 1) develop a definition of success; 2) draft an organizational staffing chart and accompanying budget; 3) complete an immigration reform plan with leadership support; and 4) identify potential funding to support planning and preparation expenses.  CLINIC offered many of its own resources to help other networks in this process.  In the end, this fifth annual event folds nicely with the efforts of the National Legalization Planning Steering Committee. CLINIC is honored to help steer this process among like advocates for at-risk immigrants.

Networks Represented at CLINIC’s 5th Annual Building Legal Immigration Services Capacity through National Networks and their Affiliates

  1. American Bar Association

  2. American Immigration Council

  3. American Immigration Lawyers Association

  4. Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

  5. Ethiopian Community Development Council

  6. Goodwill Industries International

  7. Immigrant Hope

  8. Immigrant Legal Resource Center

  9. International Rescue Committee

  10. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

  11. Mennonite Central Committee

  12. National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund

  13. National Justice for Our Neighbors

  14. United Farm Workers Foundation

  15. United Food Commercial Workers

  16. World Relief

*Mr. Chenoweth is the Director of CLINIC's Center for Citizenship and Immigrant Communities