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

Catholic Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami, Inc. (CLS) is 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 member of the community.

Mission Statement

Our mission is to provide:

1. Legal Representation and Immigration Services for those who come to South Florida from foreign lands;
2. Caring and Professional assistance for those who lack sufficient means to obtain legal help;
3. Quality services provided without regard to faith, race or national origin.

Focus

We focus exclusively on helping poor immigrants obtain asylum, establish legal residency, become citizens and reunite families. CLS’ multicultural, multilingual staff help people from more than 150 different nations. As a provider of legal assistance and representation for immigrants, refugees, and impoverished people in the Archdiocese of Miami, CLS provides a full range of immigration-related legal services, from initial advice, to assistance, to full representation, to a low-income clientele.

Catholic Identity

"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.

History

Catholic Legal Services “CLS” is a nationally recognized agency with an experienced team of attorneys and immigration professionals and whose mission is to provide professional legal services to those who come from foreign lands who lack sufficient means to obtain representation without regard to faith or national origin.

Catholic Legal Services has been providing free and low-cost legal services to needy immigrants for over two decades. CLS was independently incorporated on January 8, 1998 and has since then grown into the most active nonprofit provider of immigration legal services in the State of Florida. With a staff of 55 including 32 attorneys and 6 DOJ-accredited representatives [A DOJ-AR is a person who is approved by the Board of Immigration Appeals (the Board) 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 in two locations 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, may 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

2020

“Lex Christi, Lex Amoris” award by the South Florida Catholic Lawyers Guild

2018

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

2015

Named Pro Bono Hero of the SE Region by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)

2014

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

2013

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

2012

Proclamation of the City of Miami recognizing the agency for “outstanding public service.” Presented by Mayor Tomas P. Regalado

2011

Selected lead organization of the New Americans Campaign (NAC)

2010

Began the nation’s most productive and successful Haitian TPS program in the nation

2009

Community Advocacy Award presented by the Legal Aid Service of Broward County.

2007

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

2006

Adalsinda Lomangino Award for outstanding contributions to the field of immigration law presented by the South Florida Chapter, American Immigration Lawyers Association

2003

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

2000

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

1999

Admitted into the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition

1998

Incorporated as Catholic Charities Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Miami, Inc.

1994

Established as the GWL Legal Project of the Notre Dame d’Haiti Mission, Human Services Division