I started practicing immigration law at the end of 1983 at a time when Congress passed legislation that allowed out of status aliens who had been in the U.S. prior to January 1, 1982 to apply for legal residency. Also agricultural workers, who had worked for three years or for a one year period to be placed on a track to gain legal permanent residency and also for other out of status aliens who had been in the U.S. prior to January 1, 1982.This was a major policy change for the U.S. government and a recognition that trying to find and deport 9-11 million people that had been living in the U. S., some for 20 years or more, was an impossible task.
It was a population that had kept in the shadows and had tried to stay away from any contact with the government. Reaching out to these people, who did not understand the U.S. immigration system and to help them now come up with the documentation to show that they would qualify as a member of one of the groups that would be eligible for benefits was a very gratifying endeavor. Often these were families who had married U.S. citizens and permanent residents and had children that were born in the U.S. and had acquired “birthright citizenship”
In later years there was also a special program in which an employer could apply for workers who had been working for them without papers to acquire legal residency. These applications required a test of the U.S. labor market to show that there where no available U.S. workers who were qualified to perform the work. Here both employers and employees needed help in gathering the qualifying documentation for successful applications.
Representing immigrants that are afraid to return to their home countries because of persecution based upon their race, religion, nationality, ethnic group, membership in a particular social group or political opinion requires research and delving into the individual situations that often proved very interesting. You often must learn the political history of the country and how your client’s activities and experiences intertwine with that history.
With each client there is an interesting story. An employer trying to hire a specialist to help develop a product, an entrepreneur starting a new company, a family reuniting. All are interesting and challenging and contribute to why I enjoy being an immigration attorney.