Our History

black and white of IILA courtyard in Boyle Heights, CA

Founded in 1914, as a branch of the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association), the International Institute of Los Angeles aimed to help immigrant women adapt to life in the United States. The Institute offered a place for immigrants to gather for special events and holidays in the courtyard (pictured here in 1932) to foster greater cross-cultural understanding.

For over a century IILA has offered a wide range of services to assist limited-English proficient and low-income individuals achieve self-sufficiency. In the 1960s, offerings were expanded to include a wide array of legal assistance, resettlement of refugees and asylum applicants, survivors of human trafficking, and free or low-cost child care and transportation.


  • Established by the YWCA to serve women and girls coming from Europe and Asia


  • During the Depression, IILA provided relief to immigrant communities through the Family Welfare Association


  • Opposed forced relocation and helped more than 1,500 Japanese Americans submit applications for certificates of identity and developed programs for education and social services in the Japanese relocation camps
  • After World War II helped resettle Soviet refugees under the Displaced Persons Act


  • Resettled refugees who came to Los Angeles fleeing the Cuban Revolution


  • Senior Services program, funded by the California State Office on Aging, provided nutritious meals, social service information, referral and socialization for seniors in East Los Angeles
  • Began resettlement of South East Asian refugees in 1975


  • Launched Immediate Needs Transportation program in wake of 1992 civil unrest
  • Central Valley offices were opened to provide refugee services to newly arriving Hmong refugees from Laos


  • Opened Adult Respite Care Program
  • Purchased commercial kitchen for child nutrition and adjoining two-flat residence for refugees
  • Began Refugee Employment services in Glendale office–currently home to six refugee programs
  • Built a commercial kitchen at Selig corporate office to provide meals to increased number of children
  • Launched Post Placement program to assist undocumented foster children
  • Began Victims of Trafficking program through US Committee for Refugees & Immigrants