Practicing Immigration Law in the COVID19 Era – Post 1

AILA members are sharing their first person accounts of life and work at the moment – if you’re an AILA member, please email your 400-800 word submission to for consideration. Thank you for all you do!

“Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame” –  Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

I woke up this morning at 6:30 AM, a full hour and a half later than I used to in the pre-pandemic days. I read up on the total COVID-19 hospitalization numbers for Minnesota, checked in on the latest cute pet pictures and alarming pandemic statistics in my Facebook feed and then headed off to my home office in my pajamas to get to work.

I worked for a couple of hours before my paralegals came online with smiley-face emojis and responses to my flurry of emails. I video-conferenced with my law clerk about an ongoing O-1 visa case. We were only interrupted once when my 8-year-old daughter came in to complain that her 10-year-old brother wasn’t playing with her. I delayed my next video conference with a paralegal to make lunch for the kids and my sick husband (who perhaps has COVID-19 – we’ve exiled him to the basement just in case) and then headed back to the office to go through a grueling ETA-9089 form with my paralegal via video conference.

I’m taking it all in stride surprisingly well, which I attribute to the fact that I’ve already had my life abruptly upended once – after Hurricane Katrina when I evacuated to Minnesota almost 15 years ago. To quote the famous Minnesotan, Bob Dylan, “There is nothing so stable as change.” For the past 15 years in particular, I have lived my life to the fullest, each day, knowing that nothing is permanent, and you never know what the next day will hold.

And so, for all of my fellow immigration attorneys out there struggling to work and manage staff remotely, to help clients who are stuck inside and outside the country, to advise on thorny questions of public assistance and maintenance of status in a pandemic: take this one day at a time. Know what is in your control and what is not. Look for the unexpected joy in ‘the new normal’ – new and more intimate connections with friends and colleagues through technology, more time with the kids and pets, working in your PJs, and in my case, having your spouse binge-watch Schitt’s Creek while exiled in the basement with a possible case of COVID-19 because you’re kind of curious what all the buzz is about but just can’t get into it. There are silver linings to this crisis.

We are creatures of habit, but as the world changes, so will our habits and the fundament fabric of who we are. My hope is that we all come out of seclusion with greater self-confidence about our own fortitude in a crisis and a greater connectivity with our community, as we come together to support one another.

*** If you would like to take action online, please head over to AILA’s Take Action page where you can easily tell your Member of Congress that immigration agencies must close the detained courts, ensure access to counsel for detainees, and protect people from falling out of status during the COVID-19 pandemic! ***

by Sandra Feist