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Immigration Legal Services & Advocacy (ILSA)

In the United States, Hispanics have a spending power of over $978 billion! Statistically, Latinos spend more than other ethnic groups on housing, utilities, transportation, telephone services and even clothing. This economic impact, coupled with the thousands of cultural contributions, makes the Latino community a vital and necessary part of our country’s overall growth. Yet with all these contributions, more and more Hispanics are finding it harder to obtain legal status in the U.S.

Several new barriers and obstacles make legalization and naturalization a confusing, costly, time consuming process. Add in the fact that many Latinos are unfamiliar with the language and customs, and you have a difficult situation that demands immediate attention.

We’re here to help!
More than anyone, your Hispanic Services Council (HSC) understands these concerns and launched the Immigration Legal Services & Advocacy (ILSA), offering low-cost immigration services to Latinos in Hillsborough County. ILSA helps Hispanics in their successful integration into this country through bilingual and bi-cultural support services, advocacy and education.

HSC’s ILSA program is fully accredited to practice before the immigration courts, and works with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) as well as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and is fully recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

• Family petitions
• Adjustment of Status
• Work permits
• Deferred Action
• Affidavits of Support
• Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
• Citizenship


In addition, ILSA is well versed in all facets of the immigration process, including various options that are available to individuals hoping to adjust their immigration status, including:


U VISA – The U VISA is available to those individuals who can demonstrate:


  • that they were victims of a crime in the U.S.;

  • that they cooperated with the police, state’s attorney office, or other authority; and

  • that they suffered substantial harm.


Although not all crimes qualify, some common ones include domestic violence, rape and aggravated battery among others.


The U Visa is a temporary benefit that is granted for four (4) years and can include other qualifying family members in/or outside the United States. After three (3), you can apply for the “green card.”


Asylum – If you’ve suffered persecution or fear suffering persecution upon returning to your country of origin or to the country where you last resided, you could potentially obtain asylum in the United States.


To seek asylum, the persecution you fear has to be on account of race, religion, nationality, belonging to a particular social group, or political opinion. Asylum allows individuals to obtain a “green card” in the U.S. after one (1) year, and provides the opportunity to petition for your spouse and minor children. With some exceptions, applicants must ask for asylum within a year of having entered the United States.


There are two types of asylum: Affirmative and Defensive. First, individuals would apply for Affirmative Asylum with the Immigration Service, without going to trial. If the Immigration Service doesn’t approve an application, the case becomes Defensive. A Defensive case is presented before an immigration judge in removal proceedings.

Individuals that do not qualify for asylum because they’ve been in the U.S. for more than a year could potentially qualify for an exception or for Withholding of Removal. To obtain Withholding of Removal, individuals must demonstrate that their lives are at risk in their native countries on grounds of race, religion, nationality, alliance with a particular social group, or political opinion.


Withholding of Deportation does not allow individuals to obtain a “green card” or petition for their family. This benefit ends as soon as individuals no longer run any risk of danger in their native countries.


It’s important to note that applying for Asylum or Withholding of Deportation is a risk! The majority of Asylum and Withholding of Deportation are denied – and losing an asylum case means removal from the United States.


Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – VAWA is not only for women; men and/or children may also apply, but to satisfy the elements of VAWA, applicants must demonstrate that:


  • they were or are legally married to their spouse;

  • that their spouse is a U.S. citizen or U.S. legal permanent resident;

  • that they lived with their spouse;

  • that they had a good-faith marriage with their spouse;

  • that they have good moral character; and

  • that they have been victims of physical abuse or extreme cruelty.


In contrast to the U VISA, VAWA applicants do not have to demonstrate cooperation with law enforcement. However, documents such as a restraining order, police reports and pictures, among others, can help prove an individual’s VAWA case.


To make an appointment with an HSC-ILSA representative, call 813-936-7700 or ​​e-mail us today!