There are hundreds of organizations throughout California that can help individuals and families with their immigration issues, from answering basic questions about legal rights or status information, to helping you find an immigration attorney. Not only can these trusted organizations walk you through complicated legal questions, they can also connect you to important resources such as housing, health, education, and social services. Many of these groups have offices located throughout California. These are just a few examples:
California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. provides low-income rural Californians with free legal assistance and a variety of community education and outreach programs. They have local offices in Coachella, Delano, El Centro, Fresno, Gilroy, Lamont, Madera, Marysville, Modesto, Monterey, Oceanside, Oxnard, Paso Robles, Salinas, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo, Santa Rosa, Stockton and Watsonville. To get the number of your local California Rural Legal Assistance office, call their main office at (415) 777-2752 or go to http://www.crla.org/office-locations.
Catholic Charities of California provides community-based services, including immigration services, to individuals in need, regardless of their religion. They have offices in Fresno, Los Angeles, Monterey, Oakland, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Ana, Santa Rosa and Stockton. To get the number of your local Catholic Charities of California office, call their main office at (916) 313-4005 or go to http://www.catholiccharitiesca.org.
California Legal Aid Organizations provide free legal services to low-income Californians in every county in the state. For a list of these organizations, go to www.caforjustice.org/about/ organizations. Who can help me with my immigration case? Only lawyers or “Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representatives” can help you with an immigration case. Ask the person who is going to help you if he or she is a lawyer or a BIA accredited representative. Your lawyer should be licensed in the state in which you live. BIA accredited representatives work at nonprofit organizations, and the immigration court keeps a record of them. Do not pay somebody who is not a lawyer or BIA accredited representative to work on your case. People charging for immigration help, such as “immigration consultants” or “notarios,” are breaking the rules by working on immigration cases.
How can I find an immigration lawyer?
ImmigrationLawHelp.org is an online directory that lists more than 940 free or low-cost nonprofit immigration legal service providers in all 50 states. You can search for an organization or lawyer on this website by state, county, or detention facility. You can also search by types and areas of legal assistance provided, populations served, languages spoken, other areas of legal assistance, and nonlegal services provided. The website also provides all of this information in twelve languages, including Spanish, and is free to use. If you do not have a computer with internet access, you can go to your local public library and use a computer there for free. The website is: http://www.immigrationlawhelp.org/.
Will it cost money to talk to a lawyer?
It may cost money to have your first meeting or “consultation” with a lawyer or BIA accredited representative. You should ask about consultation fees before making an appointment. Talking to a lawyer or BIA accredited representative does not mean that they will accept your case.
What do I need to know if my case is accepted?
If a lawyer or BIA accredited representative accepts your case, it is important to have a written agreement about what he or she will do for you, how much it will cost, and what you need to do to help with your case. Some immigration cases or applications could take several years and may have many steps. It is important to tell your immigration lawyer or BIA accredited representative the whole story and answer all questions honestly. Tell the lawyer about any other applications you have made, any time you went to a court, any time you had a problem with the police,
any fake documents you used, any time you entered or left the United States and anything else that you think is important about your case. You may hurt your case if you try to hide a problem.
How can I locate a person in the custody of the Immigration Service?
Contact the local Office of Detention and Removal Operations of the Immigration Service (called the Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE). You can find this information at www.ice.gov or contact the headquarters at (202) 305-2734 to get the number for the local office. To find out when a person in Immigration custody will have their next hearing if one is scheduled call 1-800- 898-7180. You will have to have the person’s immigration identification number (“A number”) available.