The DJN gets schooled on immigration law by Ryan Israel, an attorney specializing in litigation and removal proceedings for immigrants in Metro Detroit.
1. What inspired you to become an immigration attorney?
I always thought I was going to go to law school — I wasn’t 100% certain my freshman year, but I had a lot of lawyers in my family and probably my sophomore or junior year I planned on it. Before I applied to law school, I thought this was the type of law I wanted to practice because I wanted to help people from different countries and I spoke different languages. I thought it was a good way to merge those two concepts.
2. How did you become multilingual and which languages do you speak fluently?
Initially it was from reading books in Spanish or English and French and English, and then I wound up taking courses in high school and college. In undergrad I studied Italian and Spanish as my majors and I also did one class in Portuguese and one class in French. In high school I studied French, Spanish and Hebrew. I also did a semester in Russian in college. I am fluent in Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese — and English! I use Spanish almost every day.
3. Tell us about your current job and your role there.
At George P. Mann and Associates, I mainly do the litigation of immigration, or removal proceedings, which is when the government tries to deport immigrants. I mainly do individual hearings and bond hearings. Bond hearings are when you try to get someone released from detentions, and individual hearings are when you’re arguing why someone shouldn’t be deported.
I’d say the most common cases I do are asylum cases and cancellation of removal, which are two forms of relief available for immigrants who meet certain eligibility requirements. Most of the clients I represent are from Central America, but I also represent a decent amount from the Middle East.
4. What are some recent changes in immigration laws and how does that impact your work?
The laws have been constantly changing. With a lot of these cases, people don’t know what the the law is, if that makes sense. There’s a lot of new litigation over changes being made. Unfortunately, most of the laws are anti-immigrant.
For example, a few a months ago, there was a case called Matter of Castro-Tum: Prosecutors used to be able to put case on hold for as long as they wanted, and the government could decide not to prosecute cases; recently, the attorney general made it so judges couldn’t shelf the case except in very particular circumstances. Tons of cases across the county had to be re-docketed, and that impacted a lot of people because when their cases were put on hold, they could pursue another form of relief — all of a sudden they had to go through their deportation proceedings.
Another big change that was made was called Matter of A-B, which had to do with Attorney General Jeff Sessions limiting the scope of asylum proceedings. He tried to limit asylum proceedings to women in domestic violence situation or being persecuted by gangs who are asylum-seekers. That decision has been up in litigation and many immigration practitioners are arguing against it. It appears that now courts are finding that decision doesn’t apply which is good for immigrants, but that decision caused a lot of chaos because a lot of judges believed that people who were domestically abused wouldn’t qualify for asylum. So that was a recent issue that is still being argued over right now.
5. What do you like most about your job?
Every day I go to court, I’m on the front line arguing for people who are just trying to survive. Often, I am the only voice for families who are living in constant fear of being ripped apart. It can be stressful carrying the weight of this information on your shoulders and knowing that you’re this family’s only defense. Many times you need to hold your ground, even when the system pushes against you. I find this line of work very rewarding because each win or argument that you make may be something that keeps a family together or that keeps someone from being killed or tortured.
I also enjoy meeting people from all over the world and just hearing their story and having the opportunity to fight for them. And each case you learn so much about the person and where they come from….you learn a lot about people, different cultures and I just enjoy doing whatever I can to help them.
6. If you could change one thing about immigration laws, what would it be?
I would have congress re-address all laws and come up with a new set of laws that would better address the issues that have been arising. I think there should be a review of what the laws are in the Immigration and Nationality Act – it has pretty much been stagnant since 1996 and congress should review everything and perhaps decide what laws they maybe want to add on or change. I just feel there are a lot of issues that remain unaddressed.
7. You’ve always made time for involving yourself in the Jewish community. What have you been involved with lately?
I created Let’s Say Chai last year, which is a social Jewish outlet focusing on outdoor activities for young adults. I also went to quite a few of The Well’s events — those are good.
Ryan Israel, 29, lives in the Farmington Hills area. He attended the University of Michigan followed by law school at Michigan State University. He is an Associate Immigration Attorney specializing in litigation and removal proceedings for immigrants at George P. Mann and Associates. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, traveling and working out.