On Nov. 16, the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA) and Immigration Law Association (ILA) at Suffolk University Law School hosted a panel discussion on business immigration law as part of the Dow Lecture Series. The annual event, as well as the Harry H. Dow Memorial Scholarship Award that is presented at the event, was established to honor the memory of Harry H. Dow, the first Chinese American admitted into the Massachusetts bar.
Mr. Dow himself was a graduate of Suffolk’s law school and one of many who took advantage of the university’s unique, part-time program for law students. During the day, he worked in his family’s laundry business in the South End; at night, he took evening classes in pursuit of a Juris Doctor degree.
After passing the bar in 1929, Mr. Dow embarked upon a distinguished career as an attorney and fought for immigrants’ rights in Boston and New York City. He enjoyed years of success before being driven out of his New York practice by racial discrimination at the height of the McCarthy era in the 1950s. In spite of this setback, Mr. Dow continued to advocate for immigrant issues by serving as a mentor for Suffolk attorneys tackling civil rights cases in the 1960s and as a social justice activist in Boston’s Chinatown.
Five attorneys spoke at this year’s lecture on immigration law: Brian Coughlin, a partner at the Boston office of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewy, LLP, the world’s leading immigration law firm; Magaly Rojas Navarro from Clark Lau, LLC, a local firm based in Cambridge; L. Edward Rios and Silvia Gwin of Berry Appleman & Leiden, LLP, also a global immigration law firm; and Miki Kawashima Matrician of Chin & Curtis, LLP, another local firm based in downtown Boston.
The panelists discussed their work in employment-based immigration, the half of U.S. immigration that is often overlooked in today’s ubiquitous discussions about immigration reform in a family-based context. All the panelists are involved in the same business of helping organizations and companies in the acquisition and movement of talent.
Their clientele range from small, local shops to large, multinational corporations from all corners of the globe. The industries they hail from are equally diverse, including businesses from the healthcare, IT, financial services, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, public, and nonprofit sectors.
During the discussion, the panelists pointed out two trends in their field that have become more apparent over the years: first, an increasing number of people from outside the U.S. are trying to live and work here; and second, the U.S. government has been adjudicating cases using a legal standard higher than the regulatory rate. In other words, a record number of people are trying to come to the States while the U.S. government is simultaneously becoming more stringent with their immigration policies.
Despite the changing trends in the arena of business immigration, the panelists stress that the most important aspect of their job is maintaining a day-to-day awareness of the individuality of each case. As Mr. Rios puts it: “Every stack of paper is [someone’s] life.”