The San Francisco Immigration Legal Defense Collaborative (SFILDC) is a collective of Bay Area organizations dedicated to serving the San Francisco immigrant community. We provide free, high quality, culturally competent legal services on behalf of immigrant children and families. Through direct legal representation, informed advocacy, and technical assistance, we work together to protect immigrants’ rights and advance universal access to counsel.


We envision a just and equitable world in which no human is subject to persecution, no immigrant faces deportation without legal representation, and everyone enjoys the basic human right of free and safe movement.


The San Francisco Immigrant Legal Defense Collaborative (SFILDC) provides legal representation and support to unaccompanied children and families residing in San Francisco, who are fleeing violence and abuse in their home countries and are facing expedited deportation proceedings in the San Francisco Immigration Court.  

We strive to protect their due process rights and ensure that no child appears before an immigration judge and prosecutor without an attorney. 


We're a unique collaboration of 15 San Francisco-based legal service organizations with diverse areas of expertise and different social support programs.  Twelve of the organizations provide direct-services representation to our clients.  Two of the organizations provide technical assistance, and one organization is a liaison with the Immigration Court.  We bring our strengths together to serve this vulnerable population.  We are funded by the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development. 



In the spring and summer of 2014, record numbers of unaccompanied minors and families -- mainly women with small children -- began arriving at the Southwest U.S. border, seeking refuge from rising levels of violence in their home countries of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico.

President Obama made a statement initially calling the surge an "urgent humanitarian situation," but then quickly reversed course with a letter to Congressional leaders introducing "an aggressive deterrence strategy focused on the removal and repatriation of recent border crossers."

At the direction of the executive branch, immigration courts nationwide created special dockets only for these unaccompanied children and families.  These dockets moved at an expedited pace in an effort to process their deportations as quickly as possible.  Courtrooms became filled with women and children.  These dockets became known as the "surge" or "rocket" dockets. 


The first surge dockets were heard in the San Francisco Immigration Court on July 30, 2014. Hundreds of unaccompanied children and families appeared before immigration judges in the first several weeks alone. Most of them unrepresented

The Bay Area legal community rushed to help.  In particular, nonprofit attorneys, already under-resourced and with towering caseloads, struggled to represent these children and families. They protested the additional pressures caused by the accelerated pace of surge docket hearings, arguing that the expedited timeline posed threats to these children's due process rights by limiting their ability to find and retain attorneys, and properly present their cases.  Most of these children and families were suffering trauma from their past experiences, did not speak English, and had few resources to obtain private immigration counsel. 

Since the beginning of the surge, the San Francisco Immigration Court has seen the highest number of families - over 8000 parents and children - on its expedited dockets of all the immigration courts in California.  Legal representation makes a 14-fold difference in outcomes, but only half of the families are represented before a judge.


In September 2014, the Mayor of San Francisco Edwin Lee and the Board of Supervisors allocated $2.1 million over two years to fund legal services for these families and unaccompanied children facing deportation on the surge dockets. To leverage our collective resources and maximize our impact, the 13 groups chosen to receive this funding joined together to form the SFILDC.

In April 2016, based on the impact and importance of SFILDC's work, the Mayor renewed SFILDC's funding for another two years until 2018.


While we focus on representing San Francisco residents, many children and families on the surge dockets live outside the city of San Francisco, so we work closely with advocates in other parts of the Bay Area and Northern California to help connect them with the services they need.  

We also work closely with the private law firms of Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP, and Keker & Van Nest, LLP, which provide ongoing pro bono support to the SFILDC.  The SFILDC is also grateful to LawLogix, which generously donated case management software to support our work.