Immigration and Asylum

The CFJC Immigration Law Clinic represents low-income immigrants — primarily youth and families fleeing violence— from around the world. Our previous clients have included youth and women from countries such as Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Ethiopia, China, Mauritania, Cameroon, Kenya and Tanzania.

The immigration clinic aids youth and families in proceedings before the immigration court, Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

We represent applicants seeking:

What do Student Lawyers do?

Students who enroll in the immigration clinic are responsible for interviewing clients and witnesses, conducting factual investigations, drafting pleadings and motions, preparing legal briefs, and representing clients at hearings before the immigration court, the BIA, DHS or the Chicago asylum office.

Many of our witnesses and the documents we need to represent our clients are in other countries. Students will need to communicate through interpreters to obtain affidavits and documents needed for their cases. Additionally, some of our clients are detained and students will need to work with the appropriate agencies to advocate for their client's release from detention.

Past Cases


Between the ages of two and nine, AR lived in the U.S. with her mother and two half-brothers, who were U.S. citizens. A.R.'s father was a convicted murderer and drug addict who lived in Mexico. In 2002, when A.R. was about nine, her father tricked her mother into letting A.R. return to Mexico. Subsequently, A.R.'s father physically abused her for two years. With the help of family members, A.R. finally escaped Mexico in 2005.

CFJC took A.R.'s case shortly after she returned to the U.S. We sought asylum for A.R. under a novel theory based on her father's abuse of her. Initially, a hearing was scheduled to determine whether A.R.'s father's presence in Mexico was a threat to her return. The hearing was postponed from 2009 until 2011. By 2010, her father was brutally murdered by a drug cartel he was involved with. The CFJC staff filed a new brief fighting for A.R.'s stay in the U.S., arguing that although her father was dead, Mexico remained a dangerous place for her because of her father's involvement with the cartels, and the escalating violence involved.

The case was once more postponed. A.R.'s case began in 2005 when she was only twelve years old, but she was not finally heard until February 22, 2011 after CFJC fought for a prehearing conference in Immigration Court. The conference was then converted to a hearing on the merits of A.R.'s case for asylum. CFJC presented A.R.'s case and the judge finally granted her asylum. Almost six years after escaping her abusive father, A.R. finally had the chance to remain in the United States. Her success in court is a testament to the CFJC's holistic approach to representation.


P.Y.'s mother chained him to furniture when she left for work, and punished him by making him kneel on a cheese grater when he misbehaved. He was severely abused from a young age in the Dominican Republic.

Shortly after escaping the abuse to join his father in the United States at seven or eight years old, his father died of a drug overdose. P.Y. was left without any consistent adult caregivers, and in ended up in a detention center in Vincennes, Indiana for two years. CFJC immigration attorneys met him in 2006, and eventually convinced a Chicago agency to care for him.

Eventually, P.Y. became a ward of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and they became the first real "parent" P.Y. had ever had. Due to the abuse he suffered as a child, he was eligible for asylum and a special status for abused children. But while his applications for status were pending, he was arrested at school in February 2010. This arrest threatened to end his chances of obtaining permanent residency in the U.S. He was now facing the frightening possibility of deportation to the Dominican Republic, a country he had long forgotten since childhood.

CFJC attorneys stepped in, and represented P.Y. After his criminal case concluded, the immigration clinic advocated for him to be granted asylum and allowed to remain in the United States. The Chicago Asylum Office agreed and granted P.Y. asylum status in September 2012.


After six years, two sixty-page briefs, and 108 exhibits, the Chicago Immigration Court finally granted asylum to Q.R.M, a mother of three from Tanzania.

In Tanzania, Q.R.M. was a victim of domestic violence. Unsupported by the Tanzanian government, she fled to the U.S. with her children, and was granted custody and a divorce. Her husband refused to recognize the divorce, and threatened to circumcise their daughters, U.S. citizens, if they returned. This practice of circumcision has an 85% prevalence rate among the family's ethnic group in Tanzania, where customary laws sanction the practice by family leaders.

CFJC immigration attorneys and law students initially filed Q.R.M.'s asylum application in June 2005. Agency delays and backlogs in the immigration court, however, meant that QRM's case was not scheduled for a merits hearing until October 24, 2011. The long wait took a psychological toll on Q.R.M and her children. They lived for six years under the shadow of deportation.

At least 12 students worked on Q.R.M.'s case between June 2005 and October 2011. Students steeped themselves in Tanzanian policy and researched thoroughly, interviewing Tanzanian witnesses and speaking with experts. They quickly drafted motions and briefs, and participated in Q.R.M.'s merits hearing. CFJC continues to represent Q.R.M. and her son. This year, they both qualify to apply for a green card. Students currently taking the course are working on the green card application for Q.R.M.