On October 10, the New York State Bar Association sponsored an Immigration Law Round Table organized by the Syracuse University Latin American Law Students Association that addressed the major changes in immigration law that have occurred since Donald Trump’s taking office.
Two immigration attorneys, both Syracuse Law alum, participated in the discussion and offered their perspectives on critical immigration law issues that have arisen under the Trump administration. Alex Galvez is an immigration attorney in Southern California, based in Los Angeles. He has handled several high-profile immigration cases and provides legal analysis for several media outlets including Univision, Telemundo, Estrella TV, and La Opinion. Jose Perez began his legal career in Venezuela and now runs his own practice with offices in Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse. In addition to immigration law, Perez practices in various areas of litigation and has a “Know Your Rights” column in CNY Latino newspaper.
As practicing immigration attorneys, Galvez and Perez offered similar narratives of their experiences that reflect a marked shift during the Trump administration. Characterized by static, bright-line rules that offer no discretion to immigration officers or immigration court judges, they each spoke of a newfound rigidity to immigration policies that have led to a general frustration amongst practitioners.
Perez illustrated this rigidity through a story about one of his clients, a young man whose asylum application was denied in 2011. Leo*, after entering the United States illegally at the age of 16, missed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) cut-off by two months. In the time since, he has become a supervisor at a farm, married a U.S. citizen, and had two children—both of whom are U.S. citizens. Leo’s initial 2007 asylum application was denied in 2011. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed that denial in 2013 and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed in 2016. At the end of his legal road, Leo filed a stay of removal. Under the Obama administration, this would allow for prosecutorial discretion in Leo’s case—making it likely that he could stay with his family in the U.S. and continue working. Under the firm rules of Trump administration, however, immigration judges have no legal recourse to allow someone like Leo to remain in the United States and it is likely that he will be deported.
Galvez and Perez both highlighted the need for accessible legal services for those facing immigration issues. They encouraged young attorneys to develop an expertise in immigration law and urged law students to gain experience by volunteering for the immigration law clinic at their school. In the absence of an immigration focused legal clinic, students can volunteer with a clinic that serves to meet legal needs critical to undocumented residents including Elder Law, Housing, or Family Law.
If you are undocumented or know someone who is, visit the New York State Immigrant Resource Guide offered by the Office for New Americans or call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 for information of naturalization support, English classes, and legal referrals.
* Leo is a fictitious name, given solely for illustrative purposes of this article.
Categories: The Briefcase Diaries