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A turning point for immigration law

generation-jd-sheri-hoidra(What follows has been adapted from something I wrote for “Trial Reporter,” the Maryland Association for Justice’s quarterly publication.)

With the rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the introduction of congressional bills such as the RAISE Act seeking to limit legal immigration, it is more critical than ever that civil advocacy groups such as the Maryland Association for Justice promote the professional development of attorneys who represent immigrants. MAJ’s immigration section, founded earlier this year after President Donald Trump announced his travel ban, is designed to do just that – teach practical information to attorneys who wish to better understand this rapidly evolving area of law.

Historically, members of the plaintiff’s bar may not have been especially concerned with immigration issues. But over time, representing non-citizens has become an unavoidable part of our practices. Roughly 5 percent of Maryland’s total population is undocumented.

Regardless of the type of cases you handle, at one point you will be faced with representing someone who is at risk of deportation. It is important that you are aware of the limitations (and advantages) involved with representing these clients.

I am readily available to answer any questions you have, or direct you to a mentor or colleague who can steer you in the right direction. Removal proceedings are on the rise nationwide, and the Baltimore Immigration Court is now backlogged with some 23,000 cases. If there was ever a time to learn a new area of law, this is it.

To foster the growth of immigration advocacy in Maryland, MAJ is committed to hosting at least two seminars a year focused on immigration. In June, we held a well-attended nuts-and-bolts seminar; on Dec. 6, we will have a marriage-based green card workshop at the MAJ office. These green card cases, otherwise known as one-step “adjustment of status,” make up a sizeable portion of everyday immigration practice. It is imperative to know how to do one right, especially in light of the new forms released under the Trump administration.

We also are planning a “Representing Children” event in April that will cover the steps involved with handling Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) cases. A SIJS case consists of representing an abandoned, neglected or abused undocumented youth at both the state court level and before USCIS or EOIR. The goal is to get the child a green card.

You may be shocked to hear that Maryland equity courts have expanded jurisdiction to hear such cases until the unmarried “child” turns 21. This is an opportunity for practice growth not present in our sister states where the magic number for a SIJS predicate finding is still 18.

Needless to say, the last nine months have been a turning point for immigration law and policy in the U.S., but we still have a lot to fight for and win. I can say as one of those lawyers who rushed to the airport following the travel ban, it has been both a terrible and wonderful time to practice immigration law. By starting the immigration section at the height of these uncertain times, MAJ continues to demonstrate their commitment to improving the administration of justice and to representing those most vulnerable among us.