By H. Raymond Fasano, Esq., Zan Khan, Esq., Moises Flores Esq., and Stephen Roth, Esq.
Youman, Madeo and Fasano stays updated on the latest changes in laws, policies and trends that affect immigration law on a daily basis. Recently, three of our Associates, Zan Khan, Moises Flores and Stephen Roth attended multi-day conferences sponsored by the Federal Bar Association's Immigration Law Section and the American Immigration Law Association, AILA. Here are their observations:
I had the pleasure of attending the 11th Annual Federal Bar Association Immigration Law Seminar this past May in Memphis, Tennessee. While the annual AILA conference is impressive in its scale - attended by literally thousands - the FBA conference allows for a more intimate, focused atmosphere. My experience was particularly rewarding because I work for the FBA Section Chair, H. Raymond Fasano, and his reputation and influence provided me with unique access to many of the lead experts, judges and orchestrators of the conference. Indeed, he was even honored with the very first award during the Judicial Reception and Awards Ceremony on the first night of the conference, and I had the privilege of accepting the accolade on his behalf.
The panel discussions were organized into six tracks, each being devoted to a different area within immigration law. I attended the fourth track almost exclusively, which was devoted to federal court practice. Federal court practice is challenging, which is what makes YMF's focus on and success in the area uncommon in the immigration law community. It is largely this expertise which initially attracted me to YMF roughly two years ago.
Panelists included immigration and circuit court judges, attorneys from the highest levels of government, law professors, renowned scholars and highly seasoned practitioners. We dug deep into circuit court decisions, examined federal court remedies and contemplated creative new strategies for a variety of areas within immigration law, from asylum to complex criminal issues. To put it simply, I learned a great deal. As a practitioner, being immersed in daily litigation is incredibly conducive to honing one's skills and staying sharp. However, the litigation-intensive routine also carries the risk of tunnel vision, i.e. reducing one's practice to a perfunctory endeavor and losing sight of the broader context of the law. Good attorneys know how to get through cases, but great attorneys remain students of the law and inject that academic creativity into their practices, and that can make the difference between winning and losing the more difficult cases. It is very rewarding to be at a firm that has earned the respect of the legal community for its mastery of the tough(er) side of immigration law. Attending the FBA conference as a YMF attorney was a meaningful, enriching experience; it allowed me to take a step back from daily practice and gain new perspective on immigration law with the benefit of unique access to the top minds in the field.
I attended the AILA conference in Boston recently and had an excellent experience. The conference offered sessions in just about every aspect of immigration law, from business to litigation. I took advantage of the litigation sessions as we spend a lot of our time in court. The panelists were highly experienced attorneys who had great insight on practices that I am sure I will be employing in the future. Helping people tell their story in court is perhaps one of the most important things we do, the panelists at the conference presented unique methods and approaches for litigation purposes.
While I had the opportunity to attend a number of sessions, I found the 601A or Provisional Waiver presentations very helpful. We often work on Provisional Waivers at the firm and have been able to have great success. However, these sessions give us a broader perspective as to how USCIS is generally dealing with these waivers. We learned what type of cases are likely to receive requests for additional evidence and practices as to how to respond to these requests. Staying up to date on the current practices at USCIS is very important, particularly when dealing with new regulations such as the Provisional Waiver which has only been in effect for a little over a year. Finally, we also had the opportunity hear the Department of Homeland Security's Deputy Secretary Mayorkas as the keynote speaker. It was important for myself as an immigration attorney to hear what the perspective and approach is from the government side regarding the many issues we deal with on a day to day basis.
I had the amazing opportunity to attend the 2014 AILA National Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, along with several thousand of my fellow immigration attorney colleagues from all over United States and even around the world. This was my first AILA conference and it was particularly special to me, having grown up in Massachusetts and having attended law school in Boston, I was able to reconnect with former mentors and colleagues who have helped me along the way. The conference itself offered four full days of presentations from world-class immigration attorneys on a wide-variety of immigration topics. At each session that I attended, the panelists offered unique practice pointers that were useful for both the seasoned veteran and the neophyte attorney looking to make their first foray into immigration law. The conference also gave me the opportunity to have candid conversations with attorneys from different areas of the country and discuss how our practice varies from region to region.
While I attended many sessions, I found the panel focused on Asylum and the "Particular Social Group" to be extremely helpful. In recent years, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has released several adverse decisions making it difficult for those fleeing persecution from gang violence in Central or South America to apply for asylum. The panel addressed several strategies to overcome this challenge and offered alternative avenues for asylees seeking protection from gang violence in the United States. The BIA also very recently modified the "particular social group" requirement of "social visibility" to "socially distinct" in the cases Matter of W-G-R-, 26 I&N Dec. 208 (BIA 2014) and Matter of M-E-V-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 227 (BIA 2014). The panelists stressed the importance of these precedent decisions and offered great tips for satisfying this new standard.
I was also able to attend the American Immigration Council's 2014 American Heritage Awards. The American Immigration Council is an amazing philanthropic organization that works tirelessly to support immigrant rights in this country. At the awards, they recognized several outstanding immigrants, including Carlos Arredondo, the Costa Rican immigrant who is famous for his heroic efforts at the Boston Marathon attacks. Mr. Arredondo, who was undocumented in the United States for many years, lost a son in the Iraq War and another son to drug abuse and suicide. It was awe-inspiring to hear his story of overcoming adversity and hear him unabashedly discuss his decision to run directly into danger to save the lives of strangers on the day of the Boston Marathon attacks. Mr. Arredondo is only one of millions of immigrants that make important contributions to this great nation and attending the AILA conference further reinforced my desire to continue fighting for those immigrant's rights in the United States.
It was a pleasure to be in the audience for H. Raymond Fasano's panel on criminal immigration issues. Mr. Fasano led his panel discussion with a firm grasp of the criminal immigration issues on which he spoke. I was particularly taken by Mr. Fasano's ability to convey his vast experience on immigration law in a fun and entertaining way. His panel was one of the best ones that I attended. I felt particularly lucky knowing that I have access to Mr. Fasano's experience on a daily basis.