Our History


PRIME was founded in Philadelphia in September 1983. In 1986 it also began serving Central Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and the state of Delaware. Its main purpose was to resettle refugees who had passed an immigration interview overseas and were allowed to come to the United States.

Many of these first refugees came from Eastern Europe, which was then behind the “iron curtain.” Later, in 1989, large numbers of Christian Evangelicals arrived.

PRIME has also resettled refugees from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Vietnam.

In 1992 PRIME became recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals in order to provide Immigration counseling, and since 1996 staff members of PRIME have also been accredited to represent clients before the Immigration Courts.

After 9/11 it became increasingly difficult to maintain a large
number of resettlement caseworkers that could relate to the
various cultural groups because the flow of refugees and the funding were drastically reduced. At the same time, the staff of PRIME had gained a certain expertise in representing clients with the Immigration Service and the Immigration Court, and we realized that many of these clients did not have the financial ability to pay a lawyer.

Committed to assisting refugees and the uprooted, we decided in 2005 to concentrate on helping clients who would otherwise not understand how to gain immigration benefits and could easily end up becoming illegal in this country.

Our greatest interest has been representing clients asking for asylum, that is, assisting people who are afraid to return to their home country. In immigration interviews and in the court, unlike criminal court, free lawyers are not appointed. It has been estimated by the University of Syracuse that between 2001-2005 9.2% of all asylum claimants in court proceedings had no lawyer, and that 93% of those without legal representation lost their asylum cases.

Today PRIME has represented people from all continents,
including Colombians, Central Americans, Ecuadorians,
Eritreans, Guineans, Jamaicans, Indonesians, Kenyans,
Liberians, Mexicans, Pakistanis, Sudanese, former
Yugoslavians. We have represented women fleeing female
circumcision, people fleeing religious persecution, and
unaccompanied minors.