History of the Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project

The North Carolina Justice and Community Development Center’s Immigrant Legal Assistance Project began in 1996 and evolved into the Justice Center’s current Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project (IRRP).

IRRP works to ensure low-income immigrants have legal representation, to advance public policies that improve the well-being of immigrant families, and to promote acceptance and understanding of immigrants and refugee communities in North Carolina. IRRP:

  • Created and sustained the Eastern Carolina Immigrants’ Rights Project in 2007, a joint effort of Legal Services of North Carolina and the North Carolina Justice Center, to serve immigrants in Eastern NC who are not eligible for federally-funded legal assistance. Pursuing these goals continues today in the efforts of IRRP and the Workers’ Rights Project.
  • Worked on behalf of low-income immigrants to collect wages owed for violation of minimum wage and overtime laws, to protect their rights to safe housing, and to protect them from unfair consumer transactions.
  • Represented thousands of low-income immigrants in obtaining the legal status they need to be able to live and work in North Carolina.
  • Fought for immigrants to have fair access to public benefits, educational opportunities, drivers’ licenses, and government offices, while opposing discriminatory bills that would seek to limit immigrants’ ability to fully interact with government and integrate into society.

Today, the Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project provides support to immigrant organizations throughout the state. The project leads workgroups
and coalitions of advocates and community leaders to coordinate education, advocacy, and strategic action on a wide range of issues, including anti-immigrant legislation, in-state tuition for immigrant students, the unjust federal immigration system, language access, policies that promote integration and economic opportunity, and strategies for community organizing. IRRP also provides individual representation in the areas of immigration law, workers’ rights, housing and consumer law, and public benefits. Highlights of the staff’s work include:

  • Comprehensive anti-immigrant legislation response and coordination, including efforts to limit use of local and organizational IDs to determine a person’s identity or residency and attempts to limit refugee resettlement in North Carolina. IRRP created and provides staff support to the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia.
  • Improving immigrant access to health care through education and advocacy efforts that inform the public about immigrant eligibility for public benefits such as Medicaid, Social Security, and the ACA, and assisting individuals to obtain needed benefits.
  • Assisting clients and their family members seeking to obtain, extend or retain lawful immigration status or citizenship in the United States. The project provides high-quality representation in a wide-range of immigration matters including U visas for victims of crime; asylum for those escaping persecution; women and children who suffered neglect or abuse; and family members seeking reunification.
  • Advocating for an administrative relief program that would change removal priorities, expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and create a new work permit for parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. IRRP personally assisted more than 2,000 young people with their DACA applications and played a leading role in the state for other nonprofit organizations implementing DACA programming.
  • Representing immigrants who are victims of fraud and working to stop businesses from engaging in predatory and illegal practices, such as notarios, or unauthorized practitioners of law who prey on the immigrant community.
  • Providing critical research about the positive impact of immigrants on North Carolina’s economy, and the economic benefits that could be gained from licensing all qualified drivers or enabling more immigrant students to enroll in our state’s universities and community colleges.
  • Expanding access to interpreters for all people who access the court system by collaborating with the state and federal government, lawyers, interpreters, court staff, judges, and community advocates to push for additional improvements to interpreter access in court.

Annual Report