Who We Are
“You shall not treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for her or him as yourself, for you were once aliens…” Leviticus 19:34
We are committed to justice and the alleviation of human misery through the promotion of the principle of equal access to the system of justice and the provision of legal services to the neediest members of
Catholic Charities Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami, Inc., also known as Catholic Legal Services, (hereafter “CLS”), is a nationally recognized agency with an experienced team of attorneys and
immigration professionals and whose mission is to provide professional legal services, both application assistance and attorney representation before the Citizenship and Immigration Services,
the Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals, to those who come from foreign lands who lack sufficient means to obtain representation without regard to faith or national origin. In
addition to its professional competencies, Catholic Legal Services’ staff reflects the diversity of the population it serves, allowing for culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate services. Our
clients come from all paths of life. We serve people from 185 countries and territories.
• Legal representation and immigration services to those who come to South Florida from foreign lands;
• Professional assistance to those who lack sufficient means to obtain legal help; and
• Quality services without regard to faith, race, national origin, or any other distinguishing characteristic.
We focus exclusively on helping poor immigrants obtain asylum, establish legal residency, become citizens, reunite families and understand immigration law and policies by providing public
education. As a provider of legal assistance and representation for immigrants, refugees, and impoverished people in South Florida, CLS provides a full range of immigration-related
legal services, from initial advice, to assistance, to full representation, to a low-income clientele.
"I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25:35).
This representative biblical passage reminds us of the Gospel commandment of welcoming our brothers and sisters. In Matthew's gospel, welcoming the stranger is presented as a salvation criterion as seen in this passage of Last Judgment.
In other words, it depicts responding to the needs of others as the fundamental action that characterizes Christian love. Indeed, we meet Christ in the stranger, in the person in need. In this passage, the people ask:
"When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you? And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these brothers of mine,
you did for me.' (Matthew 25: 38-40). The love of God is inseparable from love of neighbor (1 John 4:20).
Pope Benedict XVI explains that exercising the ministry of charity is a fundamental responsibility of all Christians. "For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could be equally well be left to others,
but is a part of her nature, and indispensable expression of her very being" (Deus Caritas Est, 25). Hence, our work here at Catholic Legal Services is deeply connected to the mission of the Church. In fact, it is a
concrete expression of it. It is from our Catholic identity that we serve everyone, regardless of what they think, believe, look like, have done or failed to do, for we believe in the dignity of every human being created in the image and likeness of God.
Catholic Legal Services grew out of the G.W.L. Legal Project, established in 1994 at Notre Dame D’Haiti Pierre Toussaint Center to provide legal services and immigration representation to refugees and immigrants from Haiti. The project rapidly
expanded beyond the Haitian community because of the vast immigrant community in South Florida. Incorporated on January 8, 1998, when the G.W.L. Legal Project (1994) merged with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network in Miami (1988),
CLS has become one of the most active nonprofit providers of legal immigration services in Florida.
From 3 staff to 58 staff including 30 attorneys and 6 DOJ-accredited representatives [A DOJ-AR is a person who is approved by the Department of Justice to represent aliens before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Executive Office
for Immigration Review (EOIR), which includes the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), and must maintain a high standard of professional conduct] with two locations in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, CLS has
served refugees and immigrants from around the world. Most CLS clients come from across the Americas, and CLS staff reflect their diversity of language and culture.
More than two thousand individuals seek the services of CLS each month including immigrants seeking to reunite with their families, many of whom were separated at the border; political and religious refugees seeking safety and security, many of whom
have experienced persecution and torture; battered spouses and their children; religious workers seeking to minister to U.S. religious communities; and long-term residents of the United States with significant family and community ties who face
deportation. These services include representation before the Immigration Court (IC), Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), United States Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Juvenile Court (JC).
These individuals, ranging from 2 months to 104 years of age, confront a complex immigration law system and a confusing bureaucracy. Many have unhealed wounds from a painful past and then encounter unexpected bigotry and barriers as they adjust to a new culture
and way of life. They often face an uncertain future. However, with CLS help, many deserving immigrants and refugees persevere and realize their dreams for a bright and secure future in the United States.
Milestones in the History of Catholic Legal Services
“Lex Christi, Lex Amoris” award by the South Florida Catholic Lawyers Guild
Florida Senator Daphne Campbell issued a proclamation to “recognize the outstanding achievements of Catholic Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami”.
The City of Miami recognized Catholic Legal Services for its role in promoting and supporting naturalization, as stated in the City’s proclamation of September 18th as Constitution and Citizenship Day
Named Pro Bono Hero of the SE Region by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
Organized a 6 agency collaborative to provide unaccompanied children with representation; won legal AmeriCorp grant on behalf of the collaborative
Selected as one of the three law firms to pilot EOIR-funded representation of mentally incompetent detainees
Proclamation of Catholic Legal Services Citizenship Day, June 22, 2013 by the Mayor of Miami-Dade County Carlos A. Gimenez and the Board of County Commissioner Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa
Proclamation of the City of Miami recognizing the agency for “outstanding public service.” Presented by Mayor Tomas P. Regalado
Selected lead organization of the New Americans Campaign (NAC)
Began the nation’s most productive and successful Haitian TPS program in the nation
Community Advocacy Award presented by the Legal Aid Service of Broward County.
Saint Vincent De Paul Award for faithful and compassionate service to those who seek sanctuary, shelter, and security in their new land by the Archdiocese of Miami
Adalsinda Lomangino Award for outstanding contributions to the field of immigration law presented by the South Florida Chapter, American Immigration Lawyers Association
National Award for Excellence in Advocacy, US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce NOVO award for innovative excellence in delivering services to the community
Proclamation of Catholic Charities Legal Services Day by the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, as one of the vital organizations whose contributions served to enrich the fabric of life in South Florida’s community
Commendation by the Mayor of the City of Miami for its major contributions to the Miami-Dade community
Admitted into the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition
Incorporated as Catholic Charities Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Miami, Inc.
Established as the GWL Legal Project of the Notre Dame d’Haiti Mission, Human Services Division