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Immigration Legal Fund#


Immigration Legal Fund

In 2021, the Fort Collins City Council authorized the creation of the Immigration Legal Fund pilot program. Continued funding for the program has been approved in the 2023 and 2024 City budget. Money from this program is used to fund legal services related to residents’ immigration issues, including, but not limited to: pursuing a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency, legal representation, education and outreach, and legal clinics.

Those who receive assistance through the City of Fort Collins program must be Fort Collins residents.

Numerous municipalities across the United States have established similar funds, citing benefits to the overall community.

In Fort Collins, about 4,500 residents need immigration-related legal services, and it is estimated that hundreds of cases have unmet legal needs in the community. As of December 2020, 83 Larimer County residents were in detention with unmet legal needs, and Poudre School District reported 54 students who are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and need pro bono legal assistance.

Part of the rationale for the City funding the Immigration Legal Fund is the limited availability of local immigration legal services and that only community partners working under the Immigration Legal Fund are currently providing pro bono legal advice clinics.

The Immigration Legal Fund Report 2021-2023 is now available!

How does it work?#

The Immigration Legal Fund will provide funding for the City to contract with a community organization, attorney, or law firm that can provide legal services for immigration issues. The service provider will be selected through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

Once selected, the service provider will work directly with community members to provide outlined legal services to clients at no cost. The service provider will then be reimbursed by the Immigration Legal Fund. The City of Fort Collins does not provide legal advice or direct immigration legal services.


Fort Collins residents who have immigration-related legal needs are eligible.

Examples of case types and issues that can be covered by the fund are:

  • Deportation and/or immigration detention;
  • Children seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status*;
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”);
  • Asylum and Refugee cases;
  • U visas and T visas for certain victims of violent crime or trafficking;
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) protections;
  • Family Petitions including Family Reunification Matters;
  • Labor/Work Permit-Related Petitions;
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS); and
  • Residents seeking pathways to citizenship and lawful presence (also known as Affirmative Cases) through naturalization or Lawful Permanent Resident Status.

Program funds can also be used to pay for program administration, education, and outreach.

*Special Immigrant Juvenile Status refers to situations involving minors in the United States who need the protection of a juvenile court because they have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent. If SIJ classification is granted, those minors may qualify for lawful permanent residency (also known as getting a Green Card).

City Council authorized  $250,000 per year for the program in 2023 and 2024 from the General Fund through the City's budgeting process. No additional taxes have been raised to support this program.

The City and City Council believe that this program will have both benefits to individual residents and to the community as a whole. Providing immigration legal services to residents will enable those individuals and families to continue to be positive contributors to Fort Collins and to participate fully in the community.

In addition to enhancing cohesion and culture of Fort Collins, this program anticipates significant economic benefits to the community, including workforce development.

This program also fills an existing gap in services by the private sector.

The Immigration Legal Fund currently has funding through the end of 2024. Due to the success of the program, City staff will submit a request to City Council for continued funding in the next budget cycle. 

Yes. This program supports several outcomes outlined in the City’s 2022 Strategic Plan, which outlines goals for the following two years and helps set priorities for the City's budget. Those outcomes are:

  • Neighborhood Livability & Social Health 1.4: Advance equity for all with an emphasis on racial justice to remove systemic barriers so that persons of all identities, including race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, class, sexual orientation, and mental and physical abilities can fully participate in City services and experience equitable community outcomes.
  • Neighborhood Livability & Social Health 1.5: Enhance the quality of life and sense of belonging in neighborhoods by connecting neighbors to City services, building community, and fostering harmonious relationships.
  • Safe Communities 5.1: Improve overall community safety while continuing to increase the level of public trust and willingness to use emergency services.
  • High Performing Government 7.3: Engage the community more effectively with enhanced inclusion of diverse identities, languages and needs.


You can find the 2022 Strategic Plan at the link below.

View the 2022 Strategic Plan

City staff are using a mixed-method performance assessment and quantitative statistics to evaluate the program:

  • Number of people receiving free legal advice or training
  • Number of people receiving direct representation (adults/children & case type)
  • Number of people able to lawfully remain in the U.S. due to representation
  • Number of people released on bond during the program compared past years
  • Length of residence in Fort Collins
  • Case types and outcomes
  • Number of referrals to the program by other participants
  • Percent of participants who feel they are safer due to the program
  • Percent of participants who are more knowledgeable about their pathways to citizenship or lawful presence after the program
  • Percent of participants reporting greater likelihood of accessing City or community resources due to the program

Yes. City Council began considering this issue in September 2020 and considered written and verbal public comment throughout the process. 

Predominant themes that emerged from public comments in support of a municipal immigration legal fund were:

  • Desire for the City to demonstrate commitment to social justice and equity,
  • Concerns about the lack of due process afforded to immigrants facing deportation proceedings.
  • High cost of legal services as barriers to pursuing lawful pathways to citizenship
  • Effectiveness of other municipal immigration legal funds operating in Denver or other parts of the U.S., and
  • Effectiveness of having legal representation in immigration court.

Comments in opposition to municipal funding of immigration legal services largely reflected an underlying desire to limit immigration into the community.

Shared concerns of commenters included:

  • Competition for jobs,
  • Belief that beneficiaries of these legal services have no lawful right to remain in the U.S. or have broken the law, and
  • Uncertainty about the role of the City in providing these funds with a preference for federal or nonprofit leadership in this space instead.


For more information on the Immigration Legal Fund, contact:

JC Ward | Neighborhood Programs Manager |

Leo Escalante | Neighborhood Liaison |