A few years ago, when I tried to explain what I did for a living to my 5-year-old, I wanted to make it simple and yet capture the value and significance of our profession. So, I began by considering several possibilities. For instance, I dropped this one almost as soon I thought it up, “I’m the reason someone can come to America!” After a few more tries, I came up with “I help people get here.” I felt this was too vague but did not want to burden her young mind with something too complicated. Looking up innocently she said, “but I am already here!” I suddenly felt superfluous. Now, in her late teens, I know my daughter thinks that anyway.

So, what is the right answer to what we do for a living?

The American Immigration Lawyers Association referral website has a paragraph on why someone should choose an AILA lawyer:

Only a U.S.-licensed lawyer or accredited representative is authorized and qualified to assist with your immigration case. Unlike consultants, lawyers have completed extensive education and training before being licensed to represent clients. Lawyers are also required to maintain high ethical standards: and if they don’t, you can contact your local bar association for action. When a consultant promises to help—but doesn’t deliver—the damage may not be fixable, and there may be no one to turn to.

Nice. But really, does this capture the full meaning of what it is to be an immigration lawyer?

I was reading the summer 2021 edition of HR Magazine, where I came across an article that I found hilarious entitled, “How to Tell You’re in HR”. Responses were from HR professionals who were asked to explain their profession without actually mentioning it. Consider this from Patricia Matthews, employment manager, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, Richmond, Va.

“I’m processing an STD that will go into LTD that’s not covered by FML but will need accommodations under ADA until they can RTW FT FD. Oh, this is also a WC.”

I could certainly see several of you come up with:

“I’m processing an EAD for an H-4 under C26 on Form I-765; dependent of an H-1 who has an approved I-140 under sections 106(a) and (b) of the AC21. Oh, and no automatic 180 days extension.”

Take for instance these two gems that could apply to our profession:

“I babysit adults.”

—Liz Bligan, HR manager, Catalent Pharma Solutions, Philadelphia


“Document, document, document.”

—Sonja Jordan, HR director, T2 Utility Engineers, Pearland, Texas

Perhaps, AILA could invite members to share their own candid one liners on what they do for a living?

Day in and day out, our profession is challenged by so many factors. From misused economic factors to political activism run amok, anti-immigration forces wage a relentless battle to undermine the future of immigration in this country. The previous administration was focused on not just building a physical wall to keep people out but maintained a relentless effort to raise invisible walls to make it more difficult for legal immigrants to gain a legitimate foothold in this country. Our jobs have become incredibly complex and there is no gainsaying the fact that we spend hours merely overcoming bureaucratic hurdles. We plod mindlessly through reams of paper, designed more to confuse than enlighten, in our attempts to represent our clients achieve the simple objective of living and working freely in the United States.

We respect the law and work within its narrow confines in achieving the desired result. While we may zealously advocate on behalf of our clients, we always remain true to the oath of supporting the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State(s) in which we are admitted, and to faithfully discharge the duties of the office of attorney and counselor-at-law, according to the best of our ability.

As a business immigration practitioner, I have been engaged in the task of shepherding both businesses and professionals through a vast maze of ever-changing immigration laws, rules, and regulations. So, my clients can legally, safely, and rightfully, find their place among the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. There you go, that’s what I do for a living.