Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice)
formerly Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC)
To protect and promote the basic human rights of immigrants as one of the nation’s largest non-profit law firms, through a unique combination of free direct services, impact litigation, policy reform, and public education at local, state, and national levels.
To bring about an American society where immigrants are not subjected to abuse or injustice; are not afraid to seek help; have a fair opportunity to make their case in the system that governs them; and have their contributions valued and encouraged.
Who we are
Grounded in real-world, real-people experience, AI Justice’s direct work with immigrant clients informs its broader policy work. Its multicultural and multilingual staff works to build alliances between immigrant and nonimmigrant groups, including government, civic, social and faith-based communities.
Advocates involved in immigration issues, the national media, and federal and state policy makers, consider AI Justice to be one of the most effective national groups fighting for immigrant justice. With the Congress’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, the demand for AI Justice advocacy and services has skyrocketed, making its mission more relevant than ever:
“Such successes have turned [AI Justice] into a powerhouse in national advocacy for persecuted migrants too poor to hire a lawyer.”
—The Miami Herald, January 2, 2006
From FIAC to AI Justice
In 2011, seeing hardening attitudes toward immigrants nationwide, AI Justice decided to step up its advocacy for sensible immigration policies and reform. This renewed determination prompted a national agenda and a name change from Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC) to Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice). By continuing to defend human rights on the frontlines through representation of vulnerable immigrants, AI Justice provides “boots on the ground” experience that informs workable, smart national immigration policy solutions.
A new office in Washington, D.C. will extend AI Justice policy influence. Four former staffers now work on The Hill. They are Deputy Assistant for Policy, DHS; Immigration Counsel to Senator Harry Reid; Staff Director, U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, and Democratic Chief Counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. At least ten former staff have become asylum officers with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security.
AI Justice was founded in 1996 as the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center when federal funding restrictions prevented Legal Services Corporation (LSC) agencies from representing most immigrants, unless they already had legal status. The organization was co-founded by its current executive director, Cheryl Little, Esq., along with two Catholic nuns, Sr. Maureen Kelleher RSHM and Sr. Catherine Cassidy HM. In its first year of operation, the staff inherited over 3,000 cases that LSC agencies in Florida were no longer allowed to handle.
Since its inception, AI Justice has represented immigrants from all over the world. Beginning with ten employees and a $400,000 budget, it has grown to a staff of 38 and a $3.5 million budget. Since 1996, its lawyers have closed over 80,000 cases, and AI Justice has become a national trendsetter in the immigration field.