Immigration law regulates the flow of individuals seeking to enter and stay in the United States either temporarily or permanently for a variety of reasons including family reunification, employment opportunities, and fear of persecution. Refugee law involves both international and domestic law concerning the rights of individuals seeking refuge in another country due to war, natural disaster, or political strife, and the obligations of the State toward refugees. These two areas of law often intersect.

The practice of immigration and refugee law is a growing field with many opportunities for entry level attorneys. Many lawyers begin their careers working for public interest organizations and advocating for the rights of immigrants and refugees. These include local organizations such as Ayuda, Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services, and the Capital Area Immigrant Rights Coalition (CAIR) as well as regional or national organizations such as Raices, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services.

Immigration lawyers practice in the private sector working for small, medium, or large law firms. Some firms specialize in removal defense, assisting clients who are in deportation proceedings and representing them in hearings before the Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals. Others specialize in family and employment immigration law, representing individual clients seeking to obtain immigration status for family members or companies seeking visas and employment authorization for current or prospective employees.

Attorneys also represent the government in a variety of capacities. Lawyers, for example, work for the General Counsel’s Office at U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) where they advise on requests for visas, asylum, permanent residency, and citizenship as well as on national security issues. They also represent the Department of Homeland Security in removal proceedings in Immigration Court and before the Board of Immigration Appeals. Clerkship opportunities for graduating law students exist in both tribunals. Lawyers also work in the Legal Advisor’s Office at the State Department analyzing legal issues regarding refugee admissions and refugee policy.

A solid foundation in immigration and refugee law begins with courses in Constitutional Law and Administrative Law. Students learn about the constitutional rights of individuals, duties of the government, and procedures agencies such as the Department of Justice, Department of State, and Department of Homeland Security are required to follow when adjudicating immigration cases and adopting regulations. Those interested in practicing immigration law should also take one or both of the foundational immigration law courses, and for those pursuing refugee law the course in public international law provides an important foundation. Knowledge of other practice areas such as criminal or family law can be useful to ensure that immigration lawyers understand the impact of family law agreements or criminal pleas on client’s immigration options.

In addition to doctrinal courses, students can work with and represent clients or the government in immigration and refugee matters through the Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Clinic and the Families and the Law Clinic. Simulation courses such as Interviewing, Counseling and Negotiating or Trial Practice allow students to represent hypothetical clients and begin to develop critical lawyering competencies.

Foundational Courses

  • Administrative Law
  • Constitutional Law I & II
  • Criminal Law
  • Immigration Law: Deportation and Asylum
  • Immigration Law: Employment, Family, & Naturalization
  • Public International Law

Specialization Courses

  • Civil Rights Law
  • Family Law
  • Federal Courts
  • Human Trafficking Seminar
  • Immigration and Human Rights Seminar
  • International Human Rights
  • International Religious Liberty

Clinics, Skills, and Externships

  • Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Clinic
  • Families and the Law Clinic
  • Legal Drafting – General Drafting
  • Legal Drafting – Legislation
  • Interviewing Counseling & Negotiation
  • Appellate Advocacy
  • Trial Practice

Faculty: Professor Brustin