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NIJC has a new Chicago address at 111 W. Jackson Blvd, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60604 and a new email domain at

Media Inquiries

Contact NIJC Communications Director Tara Tidwell Cullen at (312) 833-2967 or by email.

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) has made the difficult decision to discontinue legal consultations and representation for asylum seekers facing their initial screenings in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention centers near the U.S.-Mexico border. The decision comes after NIJC legal staff have spent more than two months attempting to overcome obstruction by the Biden administration that made it impossible to provide meaningful legal information and representation for most people seeking asylum under new policies for asylum screenings that went into effect in April. Where we have been able to provide consultations, we have met survivors of harm who are in urgent need of protection from deportation. Many, many more have not been able to access legal counsel at all.

"The Biden administration continues to create barriers to justice and increase its dependence on legal services organizations to provide a veneer of due process to its policies, without actually allowing people in its custody to communicate with lawyers who have stepped up to help,” said NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “We are forced to make choices about where we can have a meaningful impact for people who are facing an increasingly punitive asylum system. We hope that by redirecting our resources, we are able to better serve the growing number of people who have been paroled into the United States and still need an advocate to ensure they are able to navigate this system."

NIJC staff have worked tirelessly to reach asylum seekers in need of support and to alert the administration to systemic due process deficiencies. NIJC condemned the administration’s plans to expedite credible fear interviews in CBP custody as soon as they were announced, predicting that many refugees would be returned to harm after going through these initial asylum screenings without meaningful access to counsel. We published two reports documenting the egregious due process violations legal staff observed. We sent repeated messages to government officials documenting these violations, including a letter signed by over 100 organizations calling for this program to end.

Rather than witness any improvement, we have seen outcomes worsen for our clients:

  • Some NIJC clients have decided to accept deportation after waiting days or weeks in CBP detention and experiencing medical neglect. They have languished in the same jail system where eight-year-old Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez recently died a preventable death.
  • A person with a severe mental health diagnosis was deported to Mexico despite an outcry from their family and NIJC’s repeated requests for attorney calls.
  • Attorneys spent hours trying to determine if and when their clients’ interviews and hearings had been scheduled, only to learn that their clients had already been forced to proceed without counsel.
  • Several clients told us they were not given access to a phone call to contact their attorney until they had already failed their asylum screenings. Others told us they were only allowed one call and had to choose whether to use it to contact an attorney or their family.
  • A small number of people who succeeded in having legal counsel present for their proceedings faced a ruthless schedule that left no time for them to prepare with their attorneys or understand the high stakes they faced.
  • Most clients were unable to access pen and paper during legal consultations and asylum screenings, forcing them to commit complicated legal discussions to memory and leaving them no way to write down their attorney’s phone number, a serious problem since there is no way for attorneys to call in to reach clients in CBP custody.
  • Three 19-year-old asylum seekers to whom NIJC provided consultations were subsequently rushed through hearings without their attorney present.
  • An asylum seeker with a respiratory condition pleaded for their expeditious removal from CBP custody because they were not receiving sufficient medical care.

“NIJC provides immigration legal services for 10,000 people a year. We help our clients navigate complex immigration laws and fight for fair and dignified treatment. However, the Biden administration’s policy of forcing asylum seekers through credible fear interviews in CBP custody is designed to block attorney access, despite the high risk that lack of counsel results in people being deported to harm and barred from future protection if they are forced to again flee to the United States,” said NIJC National Legal Director Lisa Koop. “We deeply regret that the Biden administration persists in implementing a program that robs people of their ability to meaningfully access counsel and pursue their asylum rights. And we are grateful to our legal services colleagues who continue to advocate for people seeking safety from the confines of CBP custody.”