Immigration: A Closer Look

  • By 7007164025
  • 07 Mar, 2017

The United States is a nation of immigrants, and immigration policy is an important piece of the patchwork of our society.

Ours is a country of immigrants, and who gets in and stays in is a matter of immigration policy. As the topic of immigration has continued to increase in momentum, so has the number of concerned phone calls to my office.

What’s next? What will happen to me and my family? What will happen to my employee?

So, what is next for immigration?

Well, neither the executive office nor the Department of Homeland Security has confided that information in me.

An ear to Washington DC provides clues, but no definite answers. We know the “countries of concern” – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – and we know the current administration doesn’t like refugees. We can expect hiring in border patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and we should expect more deportations.

But most immigrants aren’t refugees, and the “countries of concern” are not the countries that send the most immigrants to the U.S.

What I can tell you, and what will hopefully guide you as you follow the news, scroll down your newsfeed and chat with co-workers is some background on certain immigration policies as they stand today.


Executive actions about immigration are not an invention of the current administration. On June 15, 2012, President Barack Obama announced a new policy that allows certain young people who entered the U.S. as children without legal entry to remain in the U.S. This created a non-status called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, or what is also mistakenly called the Dream Act (a failed bill meant to provide a more restrictive group of young people permanent residence in the U.S.). The rules are straightforward: be under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, arrive in the U.S. prior to your 16th birthday, reside in the U.S. from at least June 15, 2007 to the present, be present in the U.S. on June 15, 2007, be in school or a U.S. high school graduate or equivalent or an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard or Armed Forces, and not be convicted of a felony, serious misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors.

Applicants must file an application with USCIS with a filing fee. Approved DACA recipients will not be sought for removal from the U.S.  Deferred action is only valid for two years and must be renewed with a new application and filing fee. Note these young people are not actually granted any legal status in the U.S. Their removal from the U.S. is simply deferred because they are seen as a low risk to the U.S.  

Applicants may concurrently file an application for employment authorization. This is often the most valued benefit of DACA, because it allows these young people to stop hiding. They are no longer forced to work under the table or with a false social security number. Education, jobs and even driving are more attainable for DACA recipients.

Family-Based Immigration

“Love recognizes no barriers,” posted author Maya Angelou on her facebook page on January 11, 2013. “It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

And that is exactly what our immigration policies are set-up to allow, depending on who exactly loves whom.

Immigration policies divide loved ones into two categories – immediate relatives and nonimmediate relatives. Visas to enter the U.S. are available for immediate relatives upon completion of an application (or two, or three…), pay a filing fee (or two, or three…), and attend interviews. All applications must be supported by evidence, such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, DNA tests, family photographs and comingling of finances. Petitioners also must prove that they can afford to support their loved ones in the U.S., or that they know someone who is willing to do so, because the U.S. will not accept anyone who will be a financial burden on the country.

Immediate relatives are generally the spouse, child under 21 or parent of a U.S. citizen.  

Visas for nonimmediate relatives are subject to an annual cap. Once that cap is reached, all remaining applicants must wait for a new visas to be available next year. For countries that send a lot of immigrants to the U.S., the wait list for a visa is even longer. Nonimmediate relatives are generally older children of U.S. citizens, spouse and children of permanent residents, and siblings of U.S. citizens.

For example, a brother applying for his sister from England must wait approximately 13 years for his sister’s visa, while a brother applying for his sister from the Philippines must wait approximately 24 years for a visa. For nonimmediate relatives, family-based immigration is not a fast-track to enter the U.S.

Employment-Based Immigration

With the University of Illinois and surrounding colleges pouring qualified individuals into the work force, employers turn to immigration policies to hold on to the international graduates they wish to hire.

Employers have the option of hiring international students and providing those students ways to remain in the U.S. temporarily, and with more time, effort and money, the ability to sponsor their employees for permanent residence in the U.S.

There are several set-backs, though. First, not all employers want to hire an attorney and take on the expense of filing immigration applications.

Even when an employer is willing to pay, the employer must overcome certain challenges to make sure hiring this individual does not negatively affect U.S. workers. For example, employers of international employees usually must pay the international employee a relatively high wage.

An area where international students are sought locally is start-up businesses, where there are usually a few founders, great ideas, and not much money. Founders are not paid when their business is getting started, as they raise capital and work to prove the legitimacy of their ideas. If one of those founders is an international graduate who must be paid by the company, the company may simply decide keeping that founder is impossible. The international founder can work for the company from back home or leave the company entirely, either to leave the U.S. or go to another company with more resources. If the company does not survive without that founder, a future source of local income and jobs stops dead in its tracks.

Despite the difficulties, various visas are available with the assistance of an employer. This includes visas for specialty occupations and visas for international companies wishing to move an employee from a foreign office to a U.S. office.  

Other methods of entry to the U.S.

There are other ways to enter the U.S. Individuals may enter as an immigrant, meaning with the intent to remain in the U.S. permanently, or as a non-immigrant, meaning the individual is entering the U.S. for a defined period of time. Immigrant visas include diversity visas and fiancé visas. Non-immigrant visas include student visas and tourist visas.

The laws in each of these areas are more detailed than what I can discuss here. This a rapidly changing area of the law. Before you begin any immigration application, speak with an immigration attorney. As always, do not hesitate to call us at (217) 356-9500 for a consultation.     

 - Roaa M. Al-Heeti, Partner at Dodd & Maatuka

Dodd & Maatuka

By 18 Dec, 2017
By 17 Nov, 2017
Our very own Bob Cochran recently joined the board of the Military Family Support Trust and carried their flag at the Military Ball on Veterans Day.  One of the beneficiaries of the trust is Southeastern Guide Dogs, who has up to 250 dogs in training for veterans and the visually impaired.  Learn more about this vital organization at
By 7007164025 12 Oct, 2017

Q: Where are you from? 

A:Chicago, the city, not the suburbs.

Q: What was your undergraduate degree in?

A: Political science with a minor in Spanish.

Q: Why did you choose that degree program?

A:I wanted to work for the State Department abroad or be a political speech writer.


Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in law?

A:When I was a freshman in college, my mom got hurt at work. My mom didn't any speak English and couldn't communicate with her attorney.  Not only that, he had no 'bedside manner'. There was clearly a need for bilingual compassionate attorneys and I knew I could make a difference.

Q: What law school did you go to?

A:University of Illinois College of Law.

Q: Why did you choose that law school?

A:I did my undergrad studies here and I had done some work in the legal community already. It made sense to remain in a community that already felt like home.

Q: What was your most challenging moment either as a law student or as an attorney?

A:I work in family and criminal law, and both present a number of challenges. As the saying goes, one is bad people at their best, the other is good people at their worst. It depends on the day which cases that applies to.

Q: What has been your most rewarding moment as an attorney?

A:I love the look of relief that my clients get after heavy litigation results in a successful outcome. They look not only happy, but also free. It is the most rewarding part of my job.

Q: What kind of volunteer activities do you take part in?

A:I participate in various community empowerment efforts, and give presentations on areas of law that are particularly important to my audience. For the last two winters, I have been an overnight volunteer at Austin's Place, an emergency homeless shelter. I also serve on the Board of Governors for the Champaign County Bar Association and the Champaign-Urbana Theater Company.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

A: I am an avid traveler and I enjoy dancing, karaoke, gardening, trivia and theme parks.

Q: What is your practice area/are your practice areas?

A:I'm primarily a litigator. I handle family law, criminal/traffic, landlord-tenant litigation, estate planning and real estate.

Q: Do you have any specific career goals? 

A:I want to inspire other young women in the law, so I strive to do my best on all my cases.

Q: What is your favorite part about being an attorney?

A: That rewarding moment for my clients I described above .

Q: What is your favorite part about working at Dodd & Maatuka?

A:I love our team. We are all so different, not only in areas of expertise, but also in backgrounds and personalities, that each individual has a unique perspective to offer.

Q: Who is your favorite supreme court justice/what is your favorite piece of the constitution?

A: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg makes me smile a lot.

Q: What is one common misunderstanding of the law that you run into?

A:A lot of people think a courtroom is run like on Judge Judy, where everyone can talk over everyone else. That can be frustrating.

By 7007164025 09 Oct, 2017
By 7007164025 29 Sep, 2017
By 7007164025 15 Sep, 2017

Q: Where are you from?

A: I'm from Diamond Bar, CA

Q: What was your undergraduate degree in?

A: I went to UCSB, University of California Santa Barbara. I have a B.S. in Hydrology with a Biology emphasis.


Q: Why did you choose that degree program?

A: When I was still looking for a major that really interested me, I took a water policy class and felt like Hydrology was the study I wanted to focus on. I gained a newfound respect for the resources that most people including myself have taken for granted as being readily available. Water in California specifically interested me, because of the drought issues we have been and still are facing.


Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in law?

A: Learning how a big part of the natural resource problems we are currently facing is due in part to the policies that are enacted led me towards law. These policies usually do not look past further than the immediate needs/gratification and usually end up with devastatingly detrimental results down the line which often costs billions to fix. I wanted to be able to influence these policies for more sustainable practices from public and governmental agencies to private corporations and companies.


Q: You are currently going into your second year as a law student at the University of Illinois - why did you choose the U of I?

A: After reviewing their information, I immediately liked what the University of Illinois College of Law could offer me in terms of the opportunity, education, and experience. It has been an amazing choice.

Q: What was your most challenging moment either as a law student or as a law clerk?

A: My most challenging moment as a law student was finals season. Finding the necessary balance between the time for each assignment, test, rest, nutrition, and exercise was stressful. Each class or assignment felt like it required my full attention, but finding how to partition time between classes and my health became a necessary requirement.


Q: What has been your most rewarding moment as a law student or as a law clerk?

A: Knowing that I can positively influence the others' lives with my work has been very rewarding as a law clerk. Finding out how vast and detailed legal work can be has also been a great experience. I tend to be a curious person. So, finding out that I am working in a field where there are new and different applications of information in all facets is always exciting.


Q: What kind of volunteer activities do you take part in?

A: My most recent volunteer work was a pro bono work in New Orleans during my 1L winter break. I volunteered for the District Attorney's office in New Orleans Parish.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

A: My biggest hobby at the moment is playing basketball. It's fun, relaxing, and a great way to work out.

Q: What is your practice area/are your practice areas?

A: Currently, I have been working specifically on various types of personal injury cases.

Q: Do you have any specific career goals?

A: I want to be able to influence the outcome of environmental law.

Q: What are you most looking forward to when you become an attorney?

A: Encountering new and challenging problems, helping clients in need, and seeing how far I can develop as an attorney.

Q: What is your favorite part about working at Dodd & Maatuka?

A: The people here are definitely number 1 on my list. They're just some of the best people to work with! They have always been nice, easy to get along with, understanding, willing to help, and just all around good people.

Q: Who is your favorite Supreme Court justice/what is your favorite piece of the constitution?

A: My favorite Supreme Court Justice would have to be Justice Ginsberg. She has been a constant inspiration about what you can achieve if you continue to believe in a work hard. She faced countless daunting obstacles throughout her life and yet still ended up in the highest judicial seat in our nation.

Q: What is one common misunderstanding of the law that you run into?

A: That people don't need a lawyer and they can just take care of their own legal issues. I have encountered a number of people in my personal life who just didn't think they would need a lawyer for a certain case. They find out too late that there was something missing or not submitted on time. This of course results in more money, time, and energy spent in a case that could have been handled efficiently by an attorney.

By 7007164025 18 Aug, 2017

Q: Where are you from? 

A: Chi-Town baby!


Q: What was your undergraduate degree in? 

A: I graduated and received a certificate from a business college called Cortez W Peters Business College of Chicago where I majored in Legal/Medical Terminology.


Q: Why did you choose that degree program?  

A: Because of my mom. She had a degree in Business Administration which led her to become a legal assistant. When she took my sisters and I to her work place on 'take your child to work day', I got to help her and watch her doing legal work, which made me want to be just like her by doing what she did.


Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in law? 

A: Not what, but who, and again it was my mom. My grandma used to always say that my mom was the smartest person in the world and I decided that I wanted to be the second smartest. Since she pursued a career in law, I followed her career path.


Q: What was your most challenging moment in the legal field? 

A: Having to say goodbye to my co-workers of over 15 years at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago, Illinois.


Q: What has been your most rewarding moment? 

A: Being hired by Dodd & Maatuka and being presented with my very own first office with a door!


Q: What kind of volunteer activities do you take part in? 

A: Because I am a grandmother of four, all of my spare time is usually spent volunteering to babysit them. My grandchildren don't allow me to have spare time to volunteer for anything else.


Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?  

A: Spending time for myself, spending family time with my three children and four grandchildren, sleepovers with my grandchildren, traveling, and reading. But what I enjoy the most is attending any and every basketball game that I can in which my son participates in.


Q: Name a fun fact about you. 

A: When I was 5 years old, I wanted to BE a hamburger store when I grew up so that I could eat all the hamburgers I wanted to eat. It's a good thing my mom took me to "take your child to work day", because who knows what I would BE today if she hadn't!


Q: What are your practice areas? 

A: I mostly handle Corporate, Estate Planning, Social Security and Employment Law.


Q: What is your favorite part about working at Dodd & Maatuka? 

A: The atmosphere here makes you always want to put your best foot forward and that in return betters me as an individual. And a better me equals an even better Dodd & Maatuka.


Q: What is one common misunderstanding of the law that you run into? 

A: That as a legal assistant, I am licensed to practice law.

By 7007164025 09 Aug, 2017

Q: Where are you from?

A: Rockford, IL

Q: What was your undergraduate degree in?

A: Speech Communication with a minor in Business Administration

Q: Why did you choose that degree program?

A: I went to the University of Illinois for my Bachelor's of Arts. I began my collegiate career as a psychology major because I absolutely loved it in high school. However, in my first Psychology class, Psychology 101, we focused on simple memorization. I became bored with my classes, and quickly lost interest in psychology. I began to look for a major that would help me with law school. Speech Communications consisted of persuasion and argumentation classes, which seemed like a perfect fit for pre-law.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in law?

A: I always have been inquisitive and interested in the rule of law. I come from a marginalized city. Rockford, Illinois was very successful in industrialization when I was a young child. During my pre-teenage years, the town fell into a depression due to many of the manufacturing plants leaving Rockford. Even today, 30 years later, Main Street has massive old and dilapidated factories that have remained closed for many years. When I was growing up, people in town were just as depressed. Luckily, I had a growth mindset as a child, and I focused on what I could do and to create a change. I needed to do something which would help people.

When I was five years old, my uncle was a victim of the unfortunately common, police brutality stories, but he fought back. He was leaving band practice one night and was stopped by the cops. The police suspected him of being a pickpocket. He had his guitar with him, and a rookie cop came and started chasing him. The cop pulled out his gun and tried to shoot my uncle, so my uncle struggled with him, to prevent the cop from shooting. The cop shot himself. After his traumatic experience with the police, I told my mother, that when I grew up I was going to get my uncle out of jail. The prosecutor sought the death penalty, but instead my uncle received natural life in prison, where he died before I started practicing law.

Q: What law school did you go to?

A: University of Illinois College of Law

Q: Why did you choose that law school?

A: I received an academic scholarship, which covered my full tuition, and included an assistantship. Also, I joined the sorority of Alpha Kappa Alpha in my senior year of undergrad, and I didn't want to leave my sorority sisters. The University of Illinois College of Law was ranked top 25 in the country and it had a good community.

Q: What has been your most challenging moment as an attorney?

A: There have been many challenging moments. One of them was when I represented a mother whose daughter was kidnapped by her father and taken out of state and put in school under a different name. Having to endure a crying mother in my office, while feeling the weight and pressure of the importance of my job on me were very challenging. It motivated me try every possible solution, in order to find this child. Ultimately, we prevailed and child was returned to her mother. We successfully obtained the order of protection, convinced the state's attorney to file kidnapping charges, and were granted an order for the father to pay all of my client's attorney's fees and expenses. This outcome was rewarding, despite all of the stress my team had to endure. When we take these cases, we really take the burdens of our clients, taking it on and attacking the problem in any way we can. It's heavy, and definitely not always an easy job. I have never taken that for granted nor taken that responsibility lightly.

Q: What has been your most rewarding moment as an attorney?

A: The most rewarding moments that come to mind coincide with the most challenging: being able to make the call to tell that mom where she needed to go to get her child; or telling another mother of four whose insurance claim was denied that she was actually going to get rewarded the policy limits. Those are the most rewarding experiences because they clearly define why I became an attorney. I wanted to fight for the little guy. This fight includes fighting the insurance companies, those of whom are not "good neighbors" and do not put you "in good hands." Those who are out for profit. They are not there to just pay claims, and we fight tooth and nail for every penny our clients are awarded.

Q: What kind of volunteer activities do you take part in?

A: I am on various boards that serve the local community - Visit Champaign County Board - which I have recently been appointed Chairman. Our board hosts a multitude of activities in Champaign, like tailgating at the ISHA football and wrestling championships, the Illinois marathon, HOT ROD Power Tour, and many of the major events in town. I also frequently volunteer with my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Incorporated. As a member of the local graduate chapter, we volunteer at the food pantry at St. Luke's church, we recently organized the after school activity room at King School, we are currently collecting school supplies, to fill backpacks and give to community kids. My family and I also volunteer at the Empty Tomb. Service has always been an integral part of my life. I also make annual donations to various charities and non-profit organizations.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

A: My favorite pastime is to travel. I want to see the entire world. I have been a lot of places with many more on my list! I also love to spend time with my family. We love to play games and sports together.

Q: What are your practice areas?

A: I mostly handle personal injury litigation, civil litigation, and real estate litigation.

Q: Do you have any specific career goals?

A: I have met most of my career goals already. At this point, I just want to build this firm further, and make sure that Dodd & Maatuka is the place to go for legal advice in a caring and professional manner. We are well on our way, and I just want to improve on that. I would also like to further concentrate my practice areas.

Q: What is your favorite part about being an attorney?

A: I really enjoy being a problem solver. Not all problems are solved by going to court, and most of our cases are solved in any number of creative ways. Thinking critically, brainstorming, negotiating, and mediating are all very enjoyable. I truly enjoy being able to help people survive some of the toughest moments of their lives.

Q: What is your favorite part about working at Dodd & Maatuka?

A: We have very experienced and caring staff. Everyone in this building cares about our clients and our cases, and is a hard worker. We care about each other. We are a family.

Q: Who is your favorite Supreme Court justice?

A: Justice Sonia Sotomayor because she is so authentic, down to earth, genuine, and provides the much needed diversity to the Court. Diversity of thought, of life experience, she is just brilliant and amazing!

Q: What is one common misunderstanding of the law that you run into?

A: Some people think Attorneys are familiar with every law ever created, and that we are supposed to adept in each area of the law. Simply, it does not work like that. The law changes daily, statutes can be modified by cases, and statutes change all the time. It is wise to focus your legal practice as much as possible. Even when we think we know the law, the law can change. We have had complaints about charging for legal research, but every single question has to be researched because even the tiniest issues can make a significant change in how the law is understood and applied. 


As always, if you have any questions or would like to set up a consultation, please call us at (217) 356-9500!

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