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Carl Shusterman's Immigration Update

A Day in the Life of an Immigration Lawyer

Rate this Entry None of my friends from UCLA Law School, class of 1973, went into immigration law.

Corporate law, personal injury law and real estate law were all far more lucrative. If you are looking for a multi-million dollar settlement, immigration law is not for you.

So why do we immigration lawyers do what we do?

Having spent over half of my life practicing immigration law, I can tell you that I consider myself to be very fortunate. The satisfaction that I get from meeting and helping immigrants from around the world makes it worthwhile.

Let me explain myself by telling you about a recent day at the office:

The first thing in the morning, I interviewed an RN who had arrived in the U.S. as a visitor a few years ago. She appeared to be hopelessly out-of-status. Although her father, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., had submitted a visa petition on her behalf over 15 years ago, he had died soon thereafter. A nursing home had submitted a visa petition on her behalf in 2007. However, as I explained to her, this would not allow her to apply for adjustment of status for another four to five years.

Then, I learned that her grandfather had been born in the U.S. and had traveled to her country during the Spanish-American War in 1898. He married her grandmother, and her father was born in 1916. Therefore, under the laws which existed on the date of her father's birth, he acquired U.S. citizenship at birth. Further, since her country was a U.S. possession until 1946, she acquired U.S. citizenship through her father.

We are currently preparing an application for derivative citizenship on her behalf. We expect her to receive a Citizenship Certificate before the end of 2009.

At the beginning of the appointment, my client thought that she was illegally present in the U.S. Thirty minutes later, she learned that she was a U.S. citizen. What a relief! See

I saw my next appointment just before lunch. She was the wife of a U.S. citizen. Not just a U.S. citizen, but a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force who has been twice deployed in Iraq. She had been petitioned by her U.S. citizen step-father before her 21st birthday. During her interview, she was asked whether she was under 21 years of age, and whether she had ever been married. She answered truthfully. It took the INS two years to grant her permanent resident status and mail her a green card. By that time, she had married, and was pregnant
with her first child.

Five years later, she applied for U.S. citizenship. Her application was denied because, as the Immigration Examiner explained, she was granted a green card as an "immediate relative", not as a married daughter. Since she been granted a green card by mistake, he could not approve her application for naturalization. Furthermore, he informed her that she would be scheduled for a removal hearing before an Immigration Judge.

Both she and her husband were stunned. What had she done wrong? As a former INS General Attorney (Nationality), I was a bit stunned as well.

I called the Officer-in-Charge of her local INS office, and explained the situation to him. We are hopeful that she will not be placed in removal proceedings, and that her application for naturalization will be granted since the mistake was clearly the government's, not hers. See

My final appointment of the day also involved a woman who had an application for naturalization which was denied. She is married, and is the mother of two children. She has lived in the U.S. for over 30 years, since she was a child. However, the USCIS concluded, based on an investigation which occurred over a decade ago, that her prior marriage was fraudulent. When the INS investigator asked her husband where they had lived when they were married, he could not remember the address.

As a former INS Trial Attorney, this made me very suspicious as well. I grilled her regarding the details of her first marriage. After giving her the "third degree" for over 30 minutes, her answers were both detailed and credible. Then I asked her how it was that her former husband did not even know that address where she claimed that they had resided for over one year. She replied that they lived with her parents, and that her husband was a businessman owned a restaurant closeby. She knew exactly where their restaurant was located, the workers at the restaurant and many other details. But did she know the address of the restaurant? Absolutely not. Her husband knew exactly where their house was located, the marriage had been approved of by her parents and his prior to the marriage, and her parents were prepared to testify at her hearing. But did he know the address of the house? The answer was no.

Given my background, I fully understood why the investigator had concluded that the marriage was fraudulent, but after spending considerable time questioning the wife, I concluded that he was mistaken.

We will appeal the decision denying her citizenship. If necessary, we will defend her in removal proceedings. Will she ultimately be allowed to remain in the U.S. with her family? I have no doubt that she will. See

Driving home on the freeway, I reflected on the circumstances of my three new clients, and how they had entrusted their futures to me and my associates. There is no way that we will let any of them down.

My wife and I went out to dinner with an old friend from law school that evening. He is a corporate lawyer, and is extremely successful. He confessed that he was getting tired of the "rat race" and plans to retire at the end of 2009.

He asked me when I planned to retire. "Retire?" I replied, "I have too many clients who depend on me. And besides, I am having way too much fun!"

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Updated 12-02-2013 at 04:49 PM by CShusterman


  1. Gregory W. Christian, Washington, DC's Avatar
    Nice piece!!
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