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Senior Attorney – Asylum Project

Req ID: 7656
Location: Chicago - Loop
# of Openings: 1
FT/PT: Full time
Employment Type: Regular
Salary Schedule: Grade 110
Job Notes:


The National Immigrant Justice Center

Senior Attorney – Asylum Project


The National Immigrant Justice Center ( NIJC), a program of Heartland Alliance, provides direct legal services to, and advocates for, immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through policy reform, impact litigation, and public education. Since its founding more than three decades ago, NIJC has been unique in blending individual client advocacy with broad-based systemic change. Headquartered in Chicago with offices in Washington, DC, Indiana and San Diego, NIJC’s team of 100+ attorneys, paralegals and professionals, along with 2,000 pro bono attorneys, is at the forefront of immigration reform.



The senior attorney position is housed in NIJC’s Asylum Project, but specifically focuses on non-detained unaccompanied immigrant children (UICs) and other vulnerable children and youth, including those involved in the child welfare system. The attorney will provide legal representation before U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Immigration Court, with a focus on complex cases involving UICs.  The position also involves representation of parents or guardians in Illinois family courts to obtain predicate orders for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (“SIJS”), as well as technical support to pro bono counsel assigned to SIJS matters. The attorney will conduct age-appropriate, trauma-informed interviews with child clients and their family members, and may also advocate for clients before other agencies including schools, law enforcement, public benefits agencies, and others. The attorney should be fluent in spoken and written Spanish. Experience working with low-income immigrants, children, or survivors of violence preferred.


Essential Duties and Responsibilities:  

  • Conducts preliminary intake interview, gathers all relevant facts for presentation at Unit meetings.  Makes assessment of income eligibility and makes appropriate referrals for those individuals not eligible for Organization services.  Recommends exceptions to financial guidelines to the Supervisor.
  • Develops and implements complex case strategies in consultation with supervisor.
  • Prepares cases for interview or hearing, including drafting legal papers, conducting client advocacy, presenting evidence, etc. in accord with the Code of Professional Responsibility for the legal profession.
  • Carries a volume of work as required by the department. Has in-depth knowledge of legal and other resources. 
  • With the Supervisor and NIJC Pro Bono Manager, prepares cases for recruitment of pro bono counsel, and provides technical support to pro bono counsel assigned to NIJC cases..
  • Remains current on immigration law, policies and procedures. Remains current on implications of criminal and civil law as it applies to the representation of immigrants.
  • Develops and maintains professional relationships with EOIR, DHS, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), government and social service organizations and community organizations as necessary.  Interprets immigration and department policies and programs to the public, including public speaking. 
  • Refers clients for necessary social and/or economic assistance when determined to be necessary.
  • Participates in developing and implementing special projects. May have the primary responsibility for a project involving a specific immigration challenge or advocacy issues on a systematic level.
  • In accord with the ethical standards required of the legal profession, the Code of Professional Responsibility, preserves client confidentiality, accounts for client monies and avoids conflict of interest.
  • Maintains complete and accurate client records.  Prepares timely statistical reports.  Conducts quarterly case audits for presentation and review of the Supervisor. 
  • Participates in training on immigration procedures as assigned by the Supervisor.  May conduct training sessions as assigned by the Supervisor.
  • Identifies trends and recurring legal and social concerns.  Recommends strategies for solutions and other needed advocacy.
  • Interprets and translates for project staff as needed.
  • Committed to advancing NIJC’s mission and vision
  • Supports NIJC’s efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Adheres to professional standards as outlined by governmental bodies, (and/or other appropriate professional associations), private funding sources, Organization plans/policies and Unit guidelines.  Participates in periodic evaluative reviews and/or in-house and external staff training to ensure that she/he understands and continues to adhere to such standards.  Initiates requests for assistance or guidance from Supervisor to address new issues or complex concepts affecting adherence to professional standards.
  • Other duties may be assigned.



To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

  • Education and/or Experience: A law degree (JD), license to practice law, and a minimum of three years’ experience in the area of immigration law, with additional experience in family law preferred ; self-motivated and committed to civil liberties advocacy; ability to represent individuals in complex cases and to formulate and implement sophisticated legal strategies; demonstrated ability to work cooperatively on a variety of projects with lawyers, other staff members, and diverse community organizations and coalitions.
  • Language Skills:  High proficiency or fluency in spoken and written Spanish required.  Excellent writing and analytical skills; Ability to communicate effectively in legal and non-legal settings with a wide range of individuals and organizations. Ability to read, analyze, and interpret professional journals, technical procedures, or governmental regulations.  Ability to write reports, business correspondence, and procedure manuals.  Ability to effectively present information and respond to questions from groups of managers, clients, customers, and the general public. 
  • Reasoning Ability:   Ability to solve practical problems and deal with a variety of concrete variables in situations where only limited standardization exists. Ability to interpret a variety of instructions furnished in written, oral, diagram, or schedule form.


Physical Demands:  

The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

  • While performing the duties of this Job, the employee is regularly required to talk or hear.
  • The employee is frequently required to stand; walk; sit; feel and reach with hands and arms.
  • The employee must occasionally lift and/or move up to 10 pounds.
  • Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, distance vision, color vision, peripheral vision, depth perception and ability to adjust focus.


Work Environment:  

The work environment characteristics described here are representative of those an employee encounters while performing the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

  • The noise level in the work environment is usually moderate.


Heartland Alliance makes all hiring and employment decisions, and operates all programs, services, and functions without regard to race, receipt of an order of protection, creed, color, age, gender, gender identity, marital or parental status, religion, ancestry, national origin, amnesty, physical or mental disability, protected veterans status, genetic information, sexual orientation, immigrant status, political affiliation or belief, use of FMLA, VESSA, military,and family military rights, ex-offender status (depending on the offense and position to be filled), unfavorable military discharge, membership in an organization whose primary purpose is the protection of civil rights or improvement of living conditions and human relations, height, weight, or HIV infection, in accord with the organization's AIDS Policy Statement of September 1987.



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