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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Penn Law Immigrant Rights Project?

The Penn Law Immigrant Rights Project (PLIRP) is a student-run group that conducts pro bono immigration assistance in the greater Philadelphia area. We operate under the legal supervision of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and other immigration attorneys.

What is it like to participate in PLIRP?

All members are assigned to a casework, research/policy and/or community outreach project over the course of each semester. Additionally, PLIRP hosts member trainings and events which cover a variety of topics related to current issues in immigration law and human rights.

What sort of work should project members expect? 

Casework For students looking for a more involved time commitment

Under the supervision of local immigration attorneys, students assist clients filing for immigration relief.  Students volunteering at HIAS have worked on cases involving political asylum (individuals seeking admission to the country based on a fear of persecution in their home country), U-Visas (available to victims of violent crimes), and Violence Against Women Act self-petitions.  Students have also worked with Friends of Farmworkers, where they have helped conduct legal research, calculate damages, create and assemble legal documents for discovery and depositions, and contact Spanish speaking clients regarding damages and taxes.  Some students will also have the opportunity to work with the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center to assist pro se immigrant detainees in York County Prison with their immigration cases.  Students who work on the PIRC project will visit their client at the York Prison once, and will assist them over the course of the rest of the semester.  Cases will involve cancellation of removal and fear-based claims.  Finally, students with advanced Spanish-speaking skills will be able to assist Esperanza with casework, client follow-up, and research.

Research & Policy - For students looking for a more self-directed time commitment 

PLIRP Research & Policy students conduct research and draft memoranda on issues related to current immigration, refugee and asylum practices.  Potential opportunities include working with Reed Smith on Haitian refugee and humanitarian parole cases, researching LGBT and HIV-based asylum decisions for Immigration Equality, as well as investigating country conditions for non-profit organizations.

Community Outreach - For students who are looking for a more structured time commitment 

Opportunities include giving Know Your Rights presentations at Puentes in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, voter registration at naturalization ceremonies, voter mobilization with the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, tax preparation with CEIBA and participation in Citizenship Day.  

How many students are currently involved in the project and how long has it been in existence?

PLIRP began in 2002 with 12 members. This year we have approximately 40 members involved in casework, research and community outreach projects.

How do I get involved?

Please sign up for our mailing list and feel free to contact us at for more information.