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 residents of San Francisco. 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.
WHAT WE DO
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.
WHO WE ARE
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 provides legal lead and coordination services. 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.
WHY WE'RE HERE
In the spring and summer of 2014, a 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.
At the direction of the executive branch, immigration courts nationwide created special dockets only for these unaccompanied children and families. These “surge dockets” moved at an expedited pace in an effort to process their deportations as quickly as possible. These dockets were heard in the San Francisco Immigration Court for the first time on July 30, 2014. Hundreds of unaccompanied children and families appeared before immigration judges, most of them unrepresented.
The Bay Area legal community rushed to assist unrepresented respondents and protested the additional pressures caused by the accelerated pace of surge docket hearings, which posed threats to respondent’s due process rights by limiting their ability to find and retain attorneys who could properly present their cases. Studies shown that legal representation makes a 14-fold difference in outcomes, but due the accelerated timeline at the surge dockets only half of the respondents facing removal proceedings were represented before a judge.
In September 2014, the Mayor of San Francisco Edwin Lee and the Board of Supervisors funded legal services for these families and unaccompanied children facing deportation on the surge dockets. To leverage their collective resources and maximize their impact, 13 groups chose to receive this funding collectively and form the SFILDC. In January 2017, the City and County of San Francisco expanded the mandate of the SFILDC to represent any San Francisco resident, detained or non-detained, in removal proceedings before the San Francisco Immigration Court. The membership of the SFILDC expanded to a total of 15 agencies.
Today, under the Trump administration, the federal legal landscape for immigrants changes quickly and frequently, with an ongoing emphasis on deportation and enforcement accompanied by an erosion of due process rights. As a result of this harsh landscape, during 2017 and 2018, the SFILDC advocates had constantly learned about new legal developments, adjusted individual case strategies, modified coordinated efforts and advocacy, and addressed community fear and panic. These developments have led to an increase in the legal resources needed for each case, prolonged deadlines and uncertainty for case outcomes, and constant stress for immigrant communities and advocates. These developments are leading the SFILDC to develop creative new litigation, services, and collaboration with community partners.
The 15 organizations of the SFILDC continue to be on the front-lines of multiple efforts to ensure due process and access to counsel for immigrants residents of San Francisco facing removal proceedings in San Francisco and Northern California.
We 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.
The SFILDC works closely with advocates in other parts of the Bay Area and Northern California to serve vulnerable communities, and help connect unrepresented or low-income immigrants with counsel and other social support services they need.