Immigrant Justice Leadership Academy

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Colibrí Fellowship for DOJ Accreditation

The Colibrí Fellowship for DOJ Accreditation is the first of its kind professional fellowship for individuals seeking partial or full Department Of Justice (DOJ) Accreditation. Our goal is to train future non-attorney legal representatives to strengthen the capacity of community-based legal aid organizations.

The fellowship seeks to:

  • Open the legal profession to Black, Brown and Immigrant communities
  • Increase the number of legal professionals particularly in areas outside of metro Chicago
  • Increase the number of bilingual and bicultural legal professionals


Fellows will participate in both virtual training components in partnership with the Villanova Interdisciplinary Immigration Studies Training for Advocates (VIISTA), and in-person training with local partners. In addition to virtual and in-person training, fellows will be paired with an existing DOJ Accredited Representative that will provide mentorship and support throughout their training and DOJ accreditation application process. Fellows will also have opportunities to shadow and observe staff at the various participating sponsor organizations.

Program Eligibility
The Colibrí Fellowship is open to nonprofits who work with immigrants. Organizations can nominate non-accredited individuals who will seek partial DOJ accreditation or DOJ Partially Accredited Representatives seeking full accreditation. Due to the unique training needed for full accreditation, two training tracks will be run while still providing space for both groups to learn together.

  1. Non-accredited individuals must apply for partial accreditation during the fellowship. Partially accredited individuals must apply for full accreditation during the fellowship.
  2. Nominating organization must serve Illinois immigrants.
  3. For organizations not yet recognized by the DOJ, the organizations must commit to submitting both applications for recognition and fellow’s application for accreditation during the fellowship period.

Sponsoring organizations will receive a $20,000 grant to support their fellow(s) in completing the program and assist with on-site training and convenings.

Application process and dates
July 26, 2022, 1:00pm                            Informational session, register here

August 1, 2022                                      Application opens

August 15, 2022, 11:59pm                       Application closes

September 2, 2022                               Fellows will be announced

Fellowship program dates (subject to change)
October 13 + 14, 2022                            In-Person Kickoff retreat

February 2022                                      In-Person Mid-year Retreat

May 2022                                             Graduation

To Apply:

  • Organizations must nominate individual(s) for the fellowship
  • Organization questions & documents including:
  1. Brief organization information, location & history
  2. Why are you nominating this individual for the fellowship?
  3. Commit to supporting your fellow complete program
  4. Upload proof of DOJ recognition (or if not recognized, statement indicating you agree to apply prior to fellowship ending)
  • Individual questions & documents including:
  1. Personal statement (written or video upload)
  2. Demographic info (race, ethnicity, immigrant heritage, age, languages spoken)
  3. Attest you meet the requirements of becoming a DOJ Accredited Representative
  4. Select track – partial or full accreditation
  5. Upload your resume
  6. Agree to commit to training program, including applying for accreditation prior to end of fellowship if selected

Click here to apply

More information
For more information, please contact Jane Lombardi, Director of Immigrant Justice Partnerships at [email protected].

Funding for the Colibrí Fellowship provided by Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Welcoming Centers for Refugee and Immigrant Services.

Thank you to the Colibrí Fellowship Committee!
Alianza Hispanoamericana NFP Inc. • Centro Romero • Chicago Workers Collaborative • Erie Neighborhood House • HANA Center • Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center • Hispanic American Community Education & Services • Indo-American Center • Instituto del Progreso Latino • Muslim Women Resource Center • North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic • The Immigration Project • United African Organization • Western Illinois Dreamers • YMCA of the University of Illinois



  1. Why Colibrí?
    Colibrís are the smallest long-distance migrating birds. We wanted the fellowship to symbolize uplifting immigrant leadership, especially folks that may not otherwise have access to the legal profession, so colibrís were a natural fit. 
  2. Can an organization nominate more than one individual for the Fellowship? An organization can nominate more than one fellow. However, regardless of the number of fellows selected for the program the sponsoring organization will only be eligible to receive one $20,000 stipend.  
  3. What can organizations use the $20,000 grant for? Organizations should plan to use a portion of the $20,000 grant for the fellow’s travel to trainings and other mandatory fellowship events. Organizations can also use the funds to cover staff time for when the fellow is participating in fellowship activities.  
  4. Can someone who already submitted an application for accreditation apply? Generally, no. Individuals applying for the partial track should submit their application for partial accreditation during the fellowship period. Individuals applying for the full track should submit their application  for full accreditation during the fellowship period. 
  5. What will be the selection criteria?
    The application review committee will use the following criteria to score and rank proposals. Scores will be aggregated and the 20 individuals that have the highest average scores will be selected to participate in the fellowship this upcoming year. 

All applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria: 


  • All required documentation submitted 
  • Organization meets eligibility requirements 
  • Individual applicant meets eligibility requirements 
10 points 
Organizational capacity & commitment 

  • Organization has qualified staff responsible for program oversight, management, and staff development 
  • Organization agrees to commit to fellowship terms 
  • Organization serves immigrants living in Illinois 
15 points 


Individual capacity & commitment 

  • Individual demonstrates knowledge of and interest in becoming DOJ accredited 
  • Individual understands the needs of immigrant communities in Illinois 
  • Individual’s personal statement is detailed, thoughtful, and includes insight into applicant’s character, strengths, and goals 
  • Individual does not have track record of participating in the unauthorized practice of law nor do they have any disciplinary actions filed against them 
15 points 


Special considerations 

  • Individual is from directly impacted community 
  • Individual speaks more than one language 
  • Organization serves areas of state with high immigrant population and low numbers of legal representatives 
10 points 
TOTAL points available 50 points 


Notes and Questions

Access info session recording here 

  1. If you aren’t already partially accredited, can you apply to be a fully accredited track fellow? 
    This year we are requiring folks to be partially accredited to participate in the full accreditation track.  
  2. Is the Fellowship meant to complement other 40-hour immigration trainings?  The Fellowship will contain comprehensive immigration trainings and mentorship elements designed to prepare fellows to apply for accreditation by the end of the program. The Fellowship is designed to support fellows in meeting all requirements to successfully becoming DOJ partially or fully accredited.  
  3. Are colleges or foundations with 501(c)(3) status in Illinois eligible?
    Yes, as long as the organization is serving immigrants in Illinois and is prepared to apply for DOJ recognition by the end of the fellowship period. 
  4. Is there a cost associated with the participation of this program?
    No, there is no cost to participate. Organizations with individuals selected to participate will receive a $20,000 grant to help cover costs during the fellowship period. 
  5. What is the responsibility of the fellow upon graduation of the program? Responsibility of fellow may look different for each organization.  
  6. Who will primarily provide DOJ representatives with mentorship?
    Mentors will be currently DOJ partially and fully accredited representatives that have been practicing immigration law for a minimum of 3 years.  
  7. When will the VIISTA trainings be?
    VIISTA trainings will begin in October, after the kickoff retreat.  
  8. Where will trainings be held?
    In-person trainings will be held at various locations across the state, including at sponsoring organizations. Part of the $20,000 grant given to organizations with participating fellows can be used  towards travel costs.  
  9. What are the goals for FY23?
    We will accept up to 20 fellows this fiscal year.  
  10. Is there any specific life or work experience you would like applicants to highlight in their individual applications? In other words, is there anything specific you are looking for when selecting potential fellows for this year’s cohort?
    a. We will publish our scoring rubric ahead of applications opening.
    b. The Fellowship will prioritize individuals outside of Chicago; bilingual and/or bicultural individuals; individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color; and individuals who are directly impacted
  11. According to the DOJ website, “organizations that apply for the initial accreditation of a representative must submit Proof of the proposed representative’s broad knowledge and adequate experience in immigration law and procedure”. Can someone with limited knowledge/experience in immigration law still apply to the fellowship? (Hoping that through the fellowship, experience can be gained)
    a. Yes, for the partially accredited track.
    b. The VIISTA trainings are designed to teach individuals immigration law skills and knowledge.
    c. Organizations must commit to assisting and supporting fellows in gaining practical, hands-on immigration law experience, either through supervision at their own organization or in mentorship/shadowing with partner organizations.
    d. TRP can facilitate these connections but it is up to the individual organization to prioritize.
  12. If I have already submitted the full accreditation application but am still waiting for a decision, am I still eligible to take this training?
    You are not eligible for the Fellowship at this time. We accept individuals who have not yet submitted an application for accreditation and need additional training and experience in order to submit their application. 
  13. Is it known what days trainings will be held?
    This hasn’t been determined yet. Training schedules will be published in September. 
  14. Is the Fellowship open to organizations that are not recognized by the DOJ?  Yes, the Fellowship is open to organizations that are NOT recognized but commit to applying for DOJ recognition during the fellowship period.