About the Program

The Immigrant Legal Services Fund (ILSF) provides free legal services for Harris County residents who are facing deportation in immigration detention.

The goal of this program is to create a system in immigration court where everyone who needs an attorney gets one: regardless of the strength of their case or the person’s criminal record.

With our current funding, however, this program is first-come, first-serve. Once the attorneys reach their maximum number of assigned cases, they may not be able to take your case.

This fund also provides counsel to children in Harris County who were previously detained in ORR shelters.  

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Eligibility 

To qualify for legal representation under the Program, the applicant must:

  1. Be detained in one of the 4 immigration detention centers in the Greater Houston Area.
  2. Be a resident of Harris County or plan to live there once released from ICE detention.
  3. Earn less than 80% of the median family income for the Greater Houston Area

NOTE: Children 17 and under who were previously detained can get services from Kids In Need of Defense (KIND)

Frequently Asked Questions

The Immigrant Legal Services Fund (ILSF) is a Harris County program that provides FREE legal representation for Harris County residents facing deportation from a Houston-area detention center AND to children who were previously detained.  Community members urged action, and this program was created as a result of advocacy and collaboration between the Houston Leads coalition and Harris County. To learn more about our campaign, read HILSC’s blog post “Revisiting Victory: The Path to an Immigrant Legal Services Fund.”  

The goal of this program is to create a system in immigration court where everyone who needs an attorney gets one: regardless of the strength of their case or the person’s criminal record.

With the current funding, however, this program is first-come, first-serve. Once the attorneys reach their maximum number of assigned cases, they may not be able to take your case.

  • CALL our Immigrant Resource Hotline: 1-833-468-4664. This hotline is run by the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC) in partnership with 5 non-profits. Open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
  • GO ONLINE online and enter in your referral at https://bit.ly/referILSF. You will need to confirm that the person is eligible for the program by sharing residence and income information. 
  • Detained individuals: Can call for free by using the 944# code from a phone inside the facility to reach us at (936) 213-0054. It is meant to be used only by people who are calling from inside a detention center. 

To refer someone into the program, you will need their:

  • Biographic info: Name, A number, date of birth, and country of Birth
  • Qualifying info: Address where they will live if released, household size and income
  • Case info: Where they are detained, court hearing date (if any), bond information (if any)
People must meet these 3 criteria to be eligible: 
  1. Facing Deportation

This fund is only for people who are currently in Immigration Court facing deportation AND:

  1. Harris County Residency

Harris County Residents are: 

  • People who lived in Harris County for at least 30 days prior to being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); OR 
  • People who are currently in detention and intend to reside in Harris County once they are released from detention. 
  1. Income

This program is for Harris County residents who earn less than 80% of the median family income, as set out in the chart below. 

  • How to use the chart: Select how many people live in the home. If the total income for everyone is less than the number listed, you are eligible. 
Family Size Income
1 $44,350
2 $50,700
3 $57,050
4 $63,350
5 $68,450
6 $73,500
7 $78,600
8 $83,650

Source:https://csd.harriscountytx.gov/Documents/PY21%20Income%20Limits%20CDBG%20and%20ESG.pdf 

Immigration legal services for adults in detention may include:

  • Assistance getting out of detention: bond hearings and parole requests
  • Having a lawyer for the deportation case: this will include filing petitions, such as for asylum, preparing witnesses for testimony, and submitting legal documents to the court. 

Once someone is released from detention, representation will continue in the non-detained immigration court so long as they continue to meet income and residency eligibility.

Immigration attorneys will not provide any representation in criminal court. 

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Immigration legal services for non-detained children will include:

  • Representation by a local attorney throughout their removal case. 
  • This will include filing petitions, such as for asylum and special immigrant juvenile status, and representing the children in non-detained immigration court.

Immigration attorneys will not provide any representation in criminal court.  

This is not a complete list, and legal services providers will accept a variety of evidence to prove income and Harris County residence:

Residence Income No documents? 
Valid Texas driver’s license Texas ID, or Harris County Enhanced+ Library Card Tax documents (eg: filings from previous year) People who are detained and have no access to paperwork can swear that they meet residency and income guidelines by signing a sworn statement.  
Name and address of person you will be released to, who lives in Harris County Pay stubs 
Mail sent to your home within last 30 days Letter from employer
Lease or utility bill in your name 

Harris County is piloting the “Universal Representation” model. The goal of universal representation is to create a system in immigration court where everyone who needs an attorney gets one: regardless of the strength of their case or the person’s criminal record. With our current funding, this program is first-come, first-serve. Once the attorneys reach their maximum number of assigned cases, they may not be able to take your case.

The Universal Representation program is for people who are at the start of their case. This means your case will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis if you are seeing a judge for the first time. People who are trying to appeal their case or have previous deportation orders will be accepted on a case-by-case basis. 

Universal Representation: 

  • Harris County residents who meet the eligibility requirements and are currently in detention, will be seen on a first-come, first-serve basis so long as there is capacity.
  • Once a referral is made into the system (1-833-468-4664 or https://bit.ly/referILSF), an available attorney will contact the person in detention to confirm eligibility. 
  • Decisions are not made on any factors other than eligibility. If an attorney is available, the case will be accepted for representation.
  • Family members can check the status of their referral by checking the https://bit.ly/ILSFstatus or calling the Immigrant Resource Hotline at 1-833-468-4664 for an update. 

Case-by-Case Decisions:

  • The cases for people who are not in removal proceedings (those who have not passed a credible fear interview or who have a deportation order they want to appeal) will be considered on a case-by-case basis. They must be in detention. 
  • In these cases, an attorney will visit with the person in detention if there is capacity. The organization will consider a number of factors, such as the case timeline, potential relief, and the person’s vulnerability in making a decision on whether to take the case.  

Organizations in the ILSF are nonprofits with valid 501(c)3 status, with a record of providing high-quality legal representation to immigrants  facing removal. Partners include:

The Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC) is the nonprofit coordinator of the program

Currently, the program is funded for one year, with an option for renewal for an additional year of funding. 

This program does not provide services to people who are not facing deportation. Instead, it focuses on vulnerable people who are in detention, who do not have access to their families and their communities. They cannot work or go to school while they are in detention. This project aims to get people released from detention and to provide representation to those who must fight their deportation cases from within a detention facility. 

However, there are many nonprofits in the Houston area that may be able to help people who are looking for help to become U.S. citizens, to file family petitions for permanent residency (green cards), or file for DACA, TPS, and U-Visas, in addition to other services. 

There are limited resources, however, and there is no guarantee of a free lawyer. For more information, call the Houston Immigration Resource Hotline at 1-833-468-4664. It is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

If you would like to file a grievance against your lawyer, you should contact the Bar Association in the state in which they are licensed. For attorneys licensed in Texas, you may contact the Texas Bar Association at (800) 932-1900. We suggest you contact the attorney’s non-profit organization before filing a grievance to see if the issue can be resolved. 

Legal Partners

Media Coverage

Watch our April 2022 Press Conference Launching the Fund:

Need Help?

Call our Hotline: 1-833- 468-4664 (M-F, 9 to 5)

Visit our Community Portal at bit.ly/referILSF (or click image below)

Support the Fund!

Sign our petition to support the continuation and expansion of the ILSF!

Spread the Word!

Share this flyer to spread the word about the ILSF. Download the full-size image HERE