by Don Slowik, Attorney and ImmigRanter at Slowik & Robinson, LLC
Between a stint at The Iowa Writers Workshop and starting law school, I backpacked around Europe, ending up in Perugia, Italy to study the country’s language and history in Italian. When I started law school back at Ohio State, I had notions of becoming an international lawyer but then fell in love with labor law and was lucky enough to land a job in that field with a large law firm in Columbus – a very good firm but very white bread. When people ask how I got into immigration law, I will sometimes say tongue-in-cheek it was because of my last name. One of the partners needed help one day on an H-1B visa – that’s a type of temporary work visa – for a Japanese business client. I will tell them that the partner scrolled down the firm’s list of Associates, saw my last name – Slowik – and said, “Bingo, he gets the job.” That didn’t really happen of course and was 25 years ago, but I’ve been practicing immigration law as part of my employment/labor law practice ever since. I still do employment and labor law, but most of what I do now is business immigration: I help U.S. businesses to secure work visas for foreign employees on a permanent or temporary basis.
I like immigration law because I really get to know my clients’ businesses, their labor needs, and how the foreign national’s skills fit into the big picture of their business. And I also get to know each foreign worker personally and help them on something – obtaining U.S. work authorization – that is very important in their personal life. The businesses and foreign individuals that I’ve helped on immigration matters are first-rate. They definitely contribute to the U.S. economy in a positive way. Immigration law is also fascinating to me because as a form of law, there’s a lot of room for legal advocacy.
While I do mostly business immigration, obtaining the visas for my client companies and their foreign employees, one of the most satisfying cases I ever had was an asylum case that turned into a deportation case for a South African family. They had fled South Africa under apartheid and came to the United States, where they filed asylum applications. It took the Immigration and Naturalization Service over 10 years to review their applications and deny them. During that time, the political situation in South Africa had completely changed, the family’s kids had grown into teenagers here, and the father had been holding down a solid job supporting his wife and kids. We were fortunate in being able to get them a suspension of the deportation by showing what a hardship it would have been for the family, especially the children, to be shipped back to South Africa.
We get to know the people and businesses we help really well. I get personal satisfaction from immigration law that I think is rare in any other type of legal practice.