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August 2010 - OCBA Immigration Law Section

by Greg Berk

The OCBA Immigration Law Section was founded in the early 1980s. Many of the original founders are still members today. The Section meets the first Tuesday of every month. Topics focus on a wide range of immigration issues, malpractice prevention, practice pointers, and legal updates.

We have approximately 80 members. The 2010 Officers are: Chair (Greg Berk); Vice Chair (Sophie Alcorn); Secretary (John Lemacks); and Treasurer (Ann Kelleher Miller).

Immigration law has become quite specialized over the years. The goal of the Section is to help Orange County practitioners stay abreast of the constant legal changes in the field. Like many areas of law, the better practitioners concentrate only in this one practice area. It is a full time job just to stay current in this one area of law.

In fact, many practitioners sub-specialize even within immigration law and further limit their practice. Some only do removal, criminal immigration, and asylum work. Others only do employment based immigration. Still others work with entertainers, some only with investors, and still others only with family immigration matters.

The practice of immigration law deals with many federal agencies including U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (US CIS), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs & Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Department of Sate (DOS), and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

Immigration law is a federal practice so it is common for California immigration attorneys to have clients in other states and overseas. Because they are not appearing in any State Courts, they are allowed to accept U.S. immigration cases in any of the 50 States.

Perhaps about 20% of U.S. immigration matters can be done by in pro pers. However, the remaining 80% is quite complex and attorney representation is highly recommended. Too often, in pro pers don’t know where the lines of demarcation are.

Adding to the problem is that there are many unlicensed document preparers who will take on immigration matters at very low rates. The consumer is not aware that in many cases, the representation is terribly sub-standard, and frequently harms the client’s immigration status or does nothing to advance it. The State of California now has a requirement that a non-lawyer engaged in preparing immigration forms must first enroll as a bonded immigration consultant. The program is overseen by the California Secretary of State. However, due to funding issues, the program lacks strong enforcement.

Even if an in pro per cannot afford an attorney to handle the entire case, he or she would be well served to at least consult with an experienced immigration attorney to determine eligibility and risks with applying for a particular visa category or immigration benefit.

As Congress again begins to tackle some of the more difficult issues regarding legal and illegal immigration, and various federal agencies take a more pro-enforcement posture, the OCBA Immigration Section will be there to help practitioners stay abreast of all these changes and how to translate that into competent legal representation of their clients.


Greg Berk limits his practice to immigration law. He is a Partner with the employment and labor firm Carlton, DiSante, & Freudenberger LLP. He is also the 2010 Chair of the OCBA Immigration Section.


Orange County Bar Association | P.O. Box 6130 | Newport Beach, CA 92658 | 949.440.6700 |
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