Supporting the Nation's Judicial System & the Public it Serves

Immigration Issues in the State Courts

The Strategic Initiatives Grants (SIG) program provides SJI the flexibility to address national court issues as they occur, and develop solutions to those problems. SJI uses its expertise and the expertise and knowledge of its grantees to address key issues facing courts across the United States. Recent immigration growth is having an impact on state and local courts, including courts along the Southwest Border and other areas of the United States with large immigrant populations. These jurisdictions are dealing with issues such as how to provide culturally appropriate services; increases in gang-crime cases involving immigrants; and the impact of federal and state immigration policies on court operations.

SJI began using the SIG program in FY 2008 to address immigration issues in the state courts at a national impact level. As part of this effort, SJI began a dialogue with the state courts to determine how immigration issues are impacting them. Two overarching themes came out of this dialogue: 1) State court capacity to provide effective service is challenged by the magnitude and intensity of current and anticipated immigration (equal access to justice); and 2) the intersection of federal immigration law and practice, and state law, can result in unintended consequences for litigants and state court systems (equal justice for all).

Two grants were awarded to support these three Program Areas; one to the Center for Public Policy Studies (CPPS); and another to support a collaborative effort between the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and the National Judicial College (NJC). SJI continues to support CPPS activities in providing direct technical assistance to the state courts on this critical issue.

In addition to support provided by the SIG program, SJI has also funded individual grants to state and local courts for projects dealing with immigration issues. The final reports of those projects are available below, and new reports will continue to be provided on this website.

CPPS has a website available for background information on this program, recent reports, and guidance for how to obtain technical assistance.



As part of SJI sponsored Immigration and the State Courts Initiative, the Center for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) has produced a series of bench cards to provide quick access for state criminal, juvenile, and family court judges and court managers to Federal immigration issues that may have an impact on cases before them. The bench cards are designed to help judges and court managers identify circumstances where a litigant’s immigration status and potential immigration rights might affect the outcome a state court case, or limit the options available to a judge in determining criminal sentences or case dispositions in juvenile and family cases. They are intended to provide an accessible guide to the major issues that a state court judge may face in dealing with immigrant litigants.

The Initiative has produced 14 bench cards discussing how the immigration issues link to state court processing. Nine (9) of the bench cards are revised versions of bench cards produced earlier, and 5 are bench cards on new topics not addressed in the original set of bench cards.