The practice of immigration law encompasses a broad range of legal environments, from business immigration law in which lawyers represent corporations seeking to employ foreign born workers to deportation defense which includes representing individuals detained by the federal government seeking release from detention and relief from removal. Immigration lawyers practice in large and small firms, non-profit agencies and government.
Immigration law can generally be divided into two large spheres – administrative or affirmative practice and deportation defense. Administrative practice involves petitioning the U.S. government to allow a person to migrate to the U.S. on an immigrant or non-immigrant visa or as a refugee. This practice can be further broken down into business immigration, family based immigration and humanitarian based immigration. Deportation defense involves more classic litigation including interviewing and counseling clients, motions practice, legal brief writing, preparing lay and expert witnesses, oral arguments, and appellate practice. Given the high rates of immigration detention and the defensive posture, deportation defense is most like criminal defense in its practice.
Business immigration is practiced in large and small firms. The clients are corporations who seek foreign-born workers and the intending immigrant is a third party beneficiary of the process. Other small firms take a wider range of cases in the administrative areas and may also do some deportation defense. There are also a number of immigration lawyers who are solo practitioners and those practitioners tend to focus on administrative practice but also do deportation defense. Lawyers at nonprofit agencies tend to focus on humanitarian based immigration such as political asylum claims, visas for victims of domestic violence, and visas for trafficking victims. Nonprofit lawyers also increasingly do deportation defense as the number of detentions and deportations grows. Some nonprofits and small firms specialize in immigrants' rights, which includes complex federal litigation, writs of habeas corpus and administrative practice. In the government sector, lawyers can work as policymakers, as prosecutors in deportation cases and as legislative aides to members of Congress specializing in immigration legislation.
Clinics and Externships
Immigration Clinic: Students represent non-citizens detained by the immigration service and facing deportation from the United States. Students handle all aspects of representation including: interviewing and counseling clients, drafting motions, preparing lay and expert witnesses, conducting direct and cross examination, preparing applications for relief from removal, preparing legal briefs on various complex arguments including: bond, termination of proceedings, and relief. Students also work with criminal defense attorneys on such issues as pleading to non-deportable offenses, and vacating convictions and with child advocacy attorneys on obtaining findings of fact for immigration relief.
The Civil and Judicial Externship Program: This program offers students semester long placements for credit with non-profit agencies that specialize in various areas including immigration.
Extracurricular Groups and Activities
Immigration Law Association: A student run organization for those interested in practicing immigration and learning more about immigration law and policy.
Public Interest and Pro Bono Programs: the Public Interest office has a variety of pro bono and summer job opportunities with non-profit organizations that either specialize in immigration or do some immigration related work.
Moot Court: There are several competitions at the school which allow students to hone their lawyering skills. Moot Court Honor Board hosts interscholastic Moot Court competitions. Other opportunities for students include the Negotiation Team, National Trial Team, and National Moot Court Team.
There are two immigration specific moot court competitions: New York University's Immigration Law Competition and University of California - Davis's Asylum and Refugee Moot Court Competition. Students interested in either of these competitions should reach out to Professor Ragini Shah.