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 69 staff including 31 attorneys and 5 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.