AILA Announcements, AILA Blog

My Moment – When Immigration Law Became My Path, Part 1


As AILA celebrates our 75th year, we invited members to “Share the Moment You Realized Immigration Law Was for You” and we are delighted to share the first of several blog posts featuring those moments;  this post includes four members’ stories:

“In 1997, I had been practicing in another area of law for 6 years. My wife and I adopted a baby boy from Korea. Taking him through the citizenship process (this was before the Child Citizenship Act), something clicked in my brain. I thought ‘this immigration stuff is cool.’ In 1998 I changed law firms and changed practice areas and have never regretted it.” – Tom Jensen, DC MD VA Chapter

“The moment I knew immigration law was for me was at my grandmother’s funeral in 2009.

I was in my second semester of college, had already changed my major from pastoral studies (I decided at 3 years old to be a missionary) to education (which was supposed to help me be a missionary – somehow) and was considering another change. I did not want to be a teacher and while I was interested in government, I was terrified at the thought of appearing in court or debating law in front of a crowd of judgmental people wearing suits. Speaking in front of people was not something I enjoyed, and I wanted to avoid it at all costs.

My family is big in the church, so when my grandmother passed from cancer, her funeral was attended by ministers from all over the world. While discussing my college plans and the indecision on my major, one of the pastors said, ‘You know what the church needs? Immigration lawyers. We simply do not know how to actually help these people.’

It was one of those rare moments of clarity when you know, deep in your soul, without question what needs to be done. I changed my major to Government with a pre-law concentration the week I got back to campus. I haven’t looked back since.

(I enjoy speaking in front of people now! I intend to be one of the judgmental people wearing a suit in the near-ish future!)” – Margaret P. Wilson, Canada Chapter

“As an ‘older’ student in law school at U.T Austin in my early 30s, massaging my brain cells to accept legal reasoning and logic seemed harder for me than most of my younger peers.  I was doing OK grades-wise, but was struggling to know what exactly I wanted to do with my law degree when I graduated.  I had no particular area of law in mind when I decided to go to law school.  None of the courses that I had taken had focused my interest to any particular field of legal practice, until I took an immigration law course in the second semester of my second year.  I loved the course!  The cases and the parts of the immigration laws that we studied fascinated me and focused my interest on a career practicing immigration law.  I was truly fortunate that, after graduating in 1986 and moving to Chicago (jobless) and passing the Illinois bar exam, I was hired by a solo practitioner in Chicago who had an immigration law and plaintiff PI practice.  I have to admit that I suffered through the PI cases that I was assigned, but I thrived in representing the immigration cases.  35 years later, including 26 years as a solo practitioner, and soon to retire, I have never looked back.  I feel truly fortunate to have found my way to the practice of immigration law.  Helping others has always been the core of my life’s mission, and now that I am set to retire, I feel a profound sense of gratitude for my career choice.” – Goldie Domingue, Mid-South Chapter

“I had a scholarship in college that allowed me to work in public service. The summer of 1988, I volunteered at Centro Presente, in Cambridge, MA, in their legal department. We helped Central Americans who were in deportation proceedings fight their asylum cases. I was blown away. Blown away by the clients, people who had suffered so much and who kept on pushing forward. Blown away by the brutality of the civil wars. Blown away by the cruelty of system where no one had a fair chance of winning. Blown away by advocates who never gave up and fought alongside the community for justice. There was no looking back – I applied to law school, to a joint degree program with an MSW in community organizing, social planning, and policy, and returned to Centro as its legal director.” – Karen J. Crawford, Texas Chapter

by AILA Members