Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy

National Immigration Law Center

aka NILC

Los Angeles, CA


Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants.

At NILC, we believe that all people who live in the U.S.—regardless of their race, gender, immigration and/or economic status—should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Over the years, we've been at the forefront of many of the country's greatest challenges when it comes to immigration issues, and play a major leadership role in addressing the real-life impact of polices that affect the ability of low-income immigrants to prosper and thrive.

Ruling Year


Executive Director

Ms. Marielena Hincapié

Main Address

3450 Wilshire Blvd., Box #108 – 62

Los Angeles, CA 90010 USA


immigration, immigrants' rights, workers' rights, economic justice, health care, immigration enforcement reform, legal advocacy, litigation, policy analysis





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Civil Rights, Advocacy for Specific Groups (R20)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (W01)

IRS Filing Requirement

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Social Media

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve New!

Immigrants and their citizen children calling the U.S. home now number over 80 million, making up 26% of the total population. Due to their immigration status, language barriers, and obstacles to securing jobs that alleviate poverty, millions of immigrants and refugees face multiple barriers that limit their ability to participate fully in society. Poverty levels for immigrant families and their children remain alarmingly high, and racial disparities in the incidence of poverty and in access to wealth compound the economic inequalities immigrants endure. Meanwhile, immigration policy shifts currently underway are being designed to chip away at the rights of people seeking safety and humanitarian relief, make low-income immigrants' lives economically unstable, and criminalize immigrants living, studying, and working in the U.S.— particularly those who are poor.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Immigration Status and Reform

Economic and Health Justice

Immigration Enforcement Reform and Justice

Education and Workforce Development

Where we workNew!

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

Our goals focus on minimizing barriers to economic security and opportunity that low-income immigrants face on a daily basis, and on creating opportunities for their families that serve as pathways out of poverty. We seek to: expand low-income immigrants' access to health care and safety net programs, as well as education and training opportunities; defend and advance workers' rights; and promote immigration policies that minimize integration barriers for immigrants and make it possible for them to fulfill their full potential. Our approach to addressing issues low-income immigrants face is holistic. For example, we examine not only how immigration enforcement policies undermine civil rights and promote discrimination, but also how they affect immigrants' access to healthcare, basic services, and education. Policymakers and advocates alike value our ability to view immigrants' rights issues from this wide-ranging vantage point.

Given the depth and complexity of the challenges the country faces, we're developing short, mid-, and long-term strategies to respond to the needs of the low-income immigrant communities we serve. While working to address immediate challenges given harsh detention and deportation policies already underway, we're also trying to anticipate other potential policy changes so that we can proactively develop comprehensive litigation, advocacy, and communications plans to challenge them or minimize their harm. We're currently focusing on: educating policymakers on the need to advance a permanent policy solution for immigrant youth; ensuring that federal courts strike down the Muslim ban and related policies; fighting efforts to strip low-income immigrants' access to critical healthcare, safety net, and economic security programs; and building the capacity of state and local advocates to proactively promote pro-immigrant policies.

A distinctive feature of our work that sets us apart from other national, legal advocacy groups is our use of a core set of multiple, integrated strategies to advance NILC's mission: litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Our work is rooted in our core values of partnership and shared leadership with directly affected communities. We're committed to using our legal and policy expertise to help build community power so immigrants can directly bring about social change that improves their lives. Our communications efforts are geared not only on shaping public debate on immigration issues, but also on ensuring that directly impacted individuals play a protagonist role in this narrative change. Advocates have reported that, beyond our legal and policy analysis, we provide them with tools they need—legal counsel, trainings, educational materials, and messaging advice—to shape their own advocacy efforts.

We're uniquely equipped to play a leadership role in minimizing barriers low-income immigrants in the U.S. face. Our mission, focused exclusively on low-income immigrants, sits at the intersection of race, citizenship, and class, all of which are at the core of issues currently affecting the country. Our use of multiple, integrated strategies—litigation, policy analysis/advocacy, and strategic communications—distinguishes our work from that of other legal advocacy organizations. Over the last several years, we've become a leader within the immigrants' rights movement, playing a central role in shaping agenda-setting litigation and progressive policies that expand opportunities for low-income immigrant families. We've also played an increasingly-important role in shaping effective messaging and communications strategies on immigration issues, and helped build other advocacy groups' capacity to do the same.

Given punitive initiatives underway that threaten the economic well-being, safety, and dignity of low-income immigrant families, we're committed to defending policy gains achieved over the years, and advancing more inclusive and equitable policies. To that end, we'll monitor the number of pro-immigrant policies proposed by policymakers, and track whether government regulations incorporate NILC recommendations.

In our litigation, beyond striking down unlawful policies or minimizing their harm, we also seek to raise public awareness that attacks on the rights of low-income immigrants and refugees undermine human and civil rights for everyone in the U.S. To measure our progress, we'll track rulings issued in cases we are co-counseling or supporting, and assess how effective we are in highlighting the voices and perspectives of affected low-income immigrants and refugees in our litigation efforts.

We hope to successfully counter continued attempts to reframe immigrants as criminals, terrorists, and “others," but also reshape public debate so that immigrants are perceived as an integral part of our country's prosperity, health, and well-being. We'll monitor whether allied organizations, policymakers, and community leaders use the research and messaging tools we develop, measure response rates for NILC's social media and email communications compared to industry standards, monitor the level of media coverage that echoes NILC's perspectives, and measure whether the stories of directly impacted people we've highlighted in our litigation and advocacy efforts are widely disseminated via traditional and social media outlets.

We deployed a multi-faced strategy to prepare for and respond to the administration's decision to terminate the DACA program. We developed know-your-rights materials, hosted numerous trainings, mobilized allies in defense of DACA, and litigated to defend DACAmented youth targeted by immigration enforcement authorities. We're currently co-leading a campaign to highlight the termination of DACA as costly and inhumane, and promote the need for policy solutions that protect immigrant youth from deportation without resulting in harms to other immigrant community members.

We've been co-counseling litigation challenging the Muslim ban. While the government has tried to circumvent court challenges by continually making minor adjustments to the executive order barring people from majority Muslim countries from traveling to the U.S., our legal arguments have for the most part successfully convinced court judges time and time again that the ban is unconstitutional and discriminatory. Working closely with Muslim, Arab, and South Asian allies, we're also currently co-leading a campaign—leveraging the opportunity provided by the legal challenges—to raise awareness about Islamophobia in the U.S., and inform a national dialogue about the impact of discriminatory policies beyond the ban on immigrants and other communities of color.

In January, news was leaked regarding a draft executive order that would crack down on immigrants' use of a broad range of health, public benefits, and economic support programs and services. Immediately inundated with inquiries from advocates and service providers who told us of immigrants forgoing (in some cases life-saving) basic treatment and services, we developed a toolkit to help health care providers and associations protect themselves and their patients against immigration enforcement actions in their facilities. We're currently co-chairing a multi-sector, multi-strategy campaign designed to ensure that immigrants can continue to obtain the health, nutrition, and safety net services they need to remain healthy and thrive.

External Reviews


National Immigration Law Center

Fiscal year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


Organizational Demographics

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Race & Ethnicity

Arab/Middle Eastern

Sexual Orientation

This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members, Senior Staff and Full-Time Staff.


This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members, Senior Staff and Full-Time Staff.

Diversity Strategies

We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
We have a diversity committee in place
We have a diversity manager in place
We have a diversity plan
We use other methods to support diversity
Diversity notes from the nonprofit
Over the last several years, NILC has made significant progress in increasing the diversity of its staff at all levels. NILC continues to perfect its recruitment tactics to ensure that a diverse pool of applicants is drawn from for its attorney and policy analyst positions in particular. NILC is proud to now have five formerly undocumented individuals as members of its legal and policy departments. A majority of NILC staff are people of color, including over half of staff members fulfilling professional or management work duties. Many of NILC’s staff are either immigrants, the children of immigrants, have immigrant family members, or otherwise have close linkages to an immigrant history. A number of staff also come from low-income backgrounds, which provides NILC with an important vantage point into the particular needs of low-income immigrant families. Diversity remains a core priority in efforts to expand NILC’s board of directors. This includes ensuring that the board is balanced in terms of ethnicity/race, gender, and sexual orientation, but also in terms of skills, leadership capacities, connections, and age.