How We Advocate

The impact of individual legal representation can be amplified by aggregating successes, failures, and case histories for use in both impact litigation and national advocacy campaigns. 

Through integrated research, advocacy, litigation, and communication strategies, the Justice Campaign documents how enforcement policies are impacting detained immigrants, their families, and our communities. At the same time, we challenge unlawful government action, defend due process, and demand greater transparency and accountability. We leverage pro bono representation by translating and analyzing often-complex issues for advocates, policymakers, media, and the general public.

We understand that for many volunteers, taking on an individual case leads to an interest in advocating for reform in the immigration system. We connect our nationwide network of Justice Campaign volunteers to local and national groups fighting for fairness and justice for immigrants and provide volunteers with tools to engage a range of advocacy activities.

Fighting the Forced Separation of Families at the Border

Legal Actions Taken on Behalf of Separated Families

The American Immigration Council, with partner organizations and law firms, filed administrative claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) on behalf of six families who will experience lifelong harm from the trauma from family separation. In the claims, each claimant seeks $3 million from the government for its intentional infliction of emotional distress. Justice Campaign volunteers played a pivotal role in obtaining the release for most of these claimants through the Dilley Pro Bono Project.

Letter Urges Secretary Nielsen to End the Migrant Protection Protocols Policy

The American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. sent a letter to DHS Secretary Nielsen on February 6, 2019 documenting the harm that families served by the Dilley Pro Bono Project have faced on the other side of the southern border – and demanding a reversal of the Migrant Protection Protocols.

Congressional Letter Calls for the Immediate Release of Family Detained in Dilley, Texas

On January 10th, 2019, Senator Jeff Merkley, Senator Mazie Hirono, and Representative Judy Chu wrote a letter to the Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Ronald D. Vitiello, calling for the immediate release of Cristy and her mother, an asylum-seeking family facing prolonged detention at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

Families Deserve Safety and Freedom – Not Jail!

Nearly 80 mothers and children were placed in prolonged detention in Dilley, Texas following their separations at the border this summer. Some were detained for upwards of six months. The Immigration Justice Campaign partnered with Amnesty International and the Dilley Pro Bono Project to advocate for the release of these families. As of Friday, November 30, 2018, all reunified families in Dilley were freed to continue their journeys toward asylum in the United States outside of detention. Thank you to those who joined our campaign to #FreetheFamilies!

AILA and the American Immigration Council’s Comment Against the Indefinite Detention of Children

In September, 2018, the government issued a proposed regulation that would dismantle the Flores Settlement Agreement. The proposal – if finalized – would lead to the indefinite detention of children and families in federal immigration detention facilities. Read AILA and the American Immigration Council’s comment to the government opposing this regulation.

Handwritten Letters from Previously Separated Moms Detained in Dilley

22 immigrant mothers previously separated from their children and now detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, wrote letters to the public about being forcibly separated from their children by the government. Read their stories.

Administrative Complaint

Complaint Details Coercive Tactics Used by Immigration Officials on Separated Parents

August 23, 2018

AILA and the American Immigration Council (Council) filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) detailing coercive tactics used by government officials against parents who were separated from their children.

Press release

Joint Complaint Filed with DHS on Behalf of Families Forcibly Separated in CBP Custody

December 11, 2017

On December 11, 2017, the Campaign joined with partners to file a complaint with DHS’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on behalf of families – including parents from their minor children – forcibly separated in immigration custody at the border.  This complaint documents an alarming number of asylum-seeking families who traveled to the U.S. together but were separated by immigration officials, with few mechanisms to locate or contact their family members in detention. The separation not only inflicts enormous trauma on children and parents, but also undermines a family’s ability to mount a joint legal defense.


Complaint Documents 15 Cases of Family Separation at the Border

December 11, 2017.

Filed with Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Blog Post

"The Trump Administration Is Separating Children From Asylum-Seeking Parents at the Border”

December 11, 2017.

Immigration Impact. Katie Shepherd, National Advocacy Counsel, AILA/Council Immigration Justice Campaign.


“To curb illegal border crossings, Trump administration weighs new measures targeting families”

December 21, 2017.

Washington Post


“Trump Administration Considers Separating Families to Combat Illegal Immigration”

December 21, 2017.

New York Times


“Trump administration considering family separation policy for asylum seekers”

December 22, 2017.

The Independent

Fighting Inadequate Access to Medical and Mental Health Care

Press Release

Complaint Filed with DHS Oversight Bodies Calls for Improvements to Medical and Mental Health Care of Immigrants in Aurora Detention Center

June 04, 2018

AILA and American Immigration Council released a press release on their complaint, filed 6/4/18, regarding inadequate access to medical and mental health care for immigrants detained at the Denver Contract Detention Facility, which is owned and operated by the private prison company Geo Group, Inc. Read More »

Administrative Complaint

Complaint Demands Investigation Into Inadequate Medical and Mental Health Care Condition in Immigration Detention Center

June 04, 2018

The American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association filed an administrative complaint with the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and ICE Health Service Corps, demanding immediate investigation into the woefully inadequate medical and mental health care provided at the Denver Contract Detention Center in Aurora, Colorado. Read More »

Fighting the Detention of Pregnant Women

Press Release

Civil and Human Rights Organizations File Joint Complaint Against DHS on Behalf of Pregnant Women Detained by ICE

September 26, 2017

AILA joined six other organizations filing a joint complaint today concerning ICE’s treatment of pregnant women in detention, highlighting inhumane conditions, inadequate medical care and failure to implement agency policy limiting the detention of pregnant women. Read More »

Administrative Complaint

Increasing Numbers of Pregnant Women Facing Harm in Detention

September 26, 2017

To the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General and Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties RE: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Detention and Treatment of Pregnant Women. Read More »

Blog Post

Why Are More Pregnant Women Being Held in ICE Detention?

September 26, 2017

By Katie Shepherd, National Advocacy Counsel, AILA/Council Immigration Justice Campaign. Read More »


AILA and the American Immigration Council signed onto a letter opposing Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision on Matter of A- B-.

Hand holding protest sign

Campaign in the News

Learn more about the Immigration Justice Campaign’s advocacy in the media:

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