Mission (established 2010): The Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL) is a Chicago-based organization led by undocumented organizers working towards full recognition of the rights and contributions of all immigrants through education, leadership development, policy advocacy, resource gathering, and mobilization.
Our Story: IYJL was founded in 2009 by a group of undocumented students who came together to stop the deportation of the organization’s co-founder. During the campaign, the group of mostly undocumented immigrant youth realized that there was no organization in the Chicagoland area seeking to advance the rights of undocumented people, where undocumented people were at the forefront. As part of the campaign, undocumented organizers began to disclose their status publicly and sharing their story, saying that any one of them could be placed in deportation, and that there needed to be a group that fought against the deportation of any member of the community. This is how we began to “come out,” take risks, and strategize on how to use our stories to influence the immigration debate.
Since 2010 IYJL has been the national leader in the National Coming Out of the Shadows strategy, urging undocumented immigrants and allies to speak publicly about our stories. This strategy, along with the slogan “Undocumented, Unafraid” was first proposed by IYJL members in May 2010, and has been replicated nationally each year. In 2012, IYJL collaborated with Nuestra Voz, LOY@L, and other undocumented youth to organized a week of Coming Out events in May, including for the first time a rally in DuPage county. In 2013 the message has expanded beyond young people and students, and focuses on those who continue to be targets of deportation and immigration enforcement: undocumented parents, people with past immigration violations, people in detention.
Coming out, especially as a form of self-determination and political escalation, has also taken the form of civil disobedience. IYJL has been an active participant in the innovation of national organizing for immigrant rights, including key collaborations doing targeted direct actions and civil disobediences. IYJL members were part of the team that organized the first civil disobedience with undocumented youth in Tucson, Arizona, as well as the second in Washington D.C. in 2010. Since then IYJL members have also participated in civil disobediences in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, and Illinois.
Off the streets, IYJL has implemented educational workshops for students, school counselors, community organizations, legal practitioners, social workers, mental health specialists and educators on the rights of undocumented immigrants and a variety of state and federal policy affecting immigrant rights. Education campaigns have included information on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), deportation and prosecutorial discretion, the rights of undocumented students and the Illinois Dream Act, the rights of undocumented immigrants facing law enforcement, and the rights of undocumented students to access higher education.
Since December 2010 IYJL has made mental health of undocumented immigrants a priority within its education and advocacy efforts. IYJL is helping build a network of mental health workers to address issues facing undocumented youth. IYJL members have participated in 4 large trainings targeting mental health practitioners and social workers. Additionally, IYJL collaborated in the national effort providing content and outreach for UndocuHealth.Org, a project of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, addressing the mental health of undocumented youth. As well as locally in Chicago with other community organizations in the fight for more public mental health clinic and public aid.
IYJL has been at the forefront of highlighting the intersections between the LGBTQ and immigrant communities. IYJL members have come out as ‘undocu-queer’ and used their stories for advocacy and creating community. IYJL was an active member of the LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition of Chicago, and has organized Coming Out of the Shadows events focused on these intersections.
Finally, we continue to support people who are in deportation proceedings. Throughout the years, IYJL has taken on dozens of successful anti-deportation campaigns In 2012 IYJL began to form a committee of multiple organizations to take on deportation cases in Illinois, Organized Communities Against Deportations. What would later become a project of the undocumented organization network, Undocumented Illinois. On a larger scale, IYJL members take part in advocacy and strategy creation to decrease (or stop) deportations of undocumented immigrants through policy and advocacy.