From Attorney Haskell:
In 1989 I made my first trip to Thailand. Shortly before I left, the Thai government declared that the Site II refugee camp was no longer a refugee camp but instead a “displaced persons” camp. As a result, there were to be no more refugee resettlements out of Site II, and the conventional wisdom was that it was “impossible” to get people out of Site II. Although I had no immigration experience at the time, I was asked by friends of mine to help them to get their relatives out of the Site II camp, and I did so. As a result, my immigration practice began by first doing the hardest cases imaginable, and then moving to more “routine” immigration matters.
The Thailand adventure was particularly interesting, because I wanted to see the refugees who I was helping to reunite with their family in America. However, the Site II camp was closed to all nonessential people, and especially to outsiders, as the Vietnamese had shelled it only a few weeks before I arrived. I was able to navigate my way through the proper channels in the Thai government, and get into the camp. I was also able to meet with various people in JVA and at the Embassy to work on getting these people through the American side as well. Ultimately, I was able to get people out of Site II and then out of other camps in Thailand and ultimately out of refugee camps throughout Southeast Asia. When the Orderly Departure Program was started in Vietnam, I was very involved with that as well. Only later did I get involved with the more traditional sorts of immigration and adjustment of status petition.
As I continued to travel, more opportunities arose to do more interesting things. For example, a number my clients had relatives who wanted tourist visas out of places such as Cambodia, and I would go with thier relatives to the Phnom Penh Embassy and get them. I still travel to Thailand and Cambodia at least once a year. Now the US Embassies over there are becoming very aggressive at rejecting even immediate family members for immigrant visas. So in recent years, I have been meeting with Consular Officers in the Embassies to discuss specific cases. In many cases I get the cases reopened and reheard, or I refile the applications, this time addressing the specific problem that got the person rejected in the first place. What is more, since I have opened up these lines of communication directly to the Consular Officers, I have been very successful at keeping my own petitions from ever getting rejected in the first place. It is very hard to get a Consular Officer to say why a petition has been rejected. Usually they will just give you a form letter that has some very general explanation that essentially says that they did not believe the petitioner. However, if they know that you will show up in the Embassy to ask them face-to-face, they are more likely to answer your email and get rid of you before they ever have to see you. I look forward to forging relationships with Consular Officers not only in in Cambodia and Thailand, where I commonly travel, but in Laos and Vietnam which are both “in the neighborhood” as well. As my children get older, I am looking forward to traveling in Central and South America and doing the same sorts of things there in the future.
In addition to this sort of traditional family based immigration practice, we have recently started bringing over pop stars, singers, and other entertainers. I also practice in the Immigration Court. Most of my cases involve Asylum, Cancellation of Removal and Adjustment of Status based on marriage. Although many of my Immigration Court clients are from Southeast Asia, I have represented a number of people from Africa, the Dominican Republic, Europe, and South and Central America. I have won the vast majority of my individual hearings in the Immigration Court and have seen very few clients actually deported. Although I do not have the volume of immigration cases either in terms of sponsorship or in terms of the Immigration Court that I have in the personal injury or bankruptcy areas, I do have a success rate on my immigration petitions and in the Immigration Court that very few attorneys can match, especially in the regions where I practice.