Posted 8/5/2013 12:00 am
Two Arkansas attorneys have partnered to form the Immigration Law Center LLLP in Little Rock, which is designed to be a one-stop law firm for immigrants.
Milton DeJesus, who has been practicing law since 1976, and Angela Schnuerle, who received her law license in 2004, decided to team up so they could practice in a field that they wanted to, which is immigration and international law, Schnuerle said.
She said the center is the only one of its kind in Arkansas. “If you need a contract lawyer, and you’re an immigrant, you can go to a contract lawyer, but they’re not going to take into consideration the immigration consequences,” Schnuerle said. “If you need an immigration lawyer, you go to an immigration lawyer, but they don’t help you if you’re going to divorce your wife.”
She said the firm can help everyone from the immigrant physician who comes to practice medicine in Arkansas to the agricultural worker.
Founded in March, the law firm has a staff of seven and additional offices in De Queen, Jonesboro and Texarkana.
“We’re not necessarily located in centers where there’s a large influx of Latinos,” DeJesus said. “Our efforts have been to represent people from all countries.”
But one of the hot issues for the center is immigration reform. “Of course, we’re positioning ourselves to be the leading law firm in that realm,” Schnuerle said.
In June, the Senate approved an immigration reform bill that features a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. The bill also included about $46 billion to be spent on border security. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on immigration reform in the fall. It could have trouble passing the Republican-controlled House, where the path to citizenship is less popular.
Schnuerle said she and DeJesus are in favor of legislation that includes the possibility of citizenship as part of the reform.
The first issue, however, is making sure the immigrants can work legally, she said. A number of industries in Arkansas, such as agriculture, hospitality and construction, depend on immigrant labor, Schnuerle said.
Immigration reform issues won’t be all that the firm handles, though. “We’re not here setting up shop so that we can capture a law that’s coming,” DeJesus said. “We want to be able to represent them in their business ventures and other areas.”
Some of the other issues that the center will handle include estate planning. “We’re now dealing with second- or third-generation immigrants who … have set up businesses,” DeJesus said. “They’re looking for long-range plans for their children.”
International trade matters will also be a key part of the firm’s business. DeJesus said the firm has clients in Africa who are facing some tariff and transportation issues that need to be handled. The firm also is considering doing work in southern Europe.
DeJesus, who is licensed to practice in the U.S. Court of International Trade in Washington, D.C., said he won’t attempt to become licensed in several foreign countries. Instead, he said, he’ll work on cultivating relationships. “We’re looking to partner up with other individuals and entities and be able to be the American side of their business,” he said.
DeJesus said the firm is considering adding lawyers. “There are a lot of attorneys talking to us right now,” he said.
Schnuerle added that she doesn’t want the firm to grow too quickly.
DeJesus, who declined to give his age but said he’s old enough to retire, said he didn’t know what the future holds for the firm. Schnuerle also declined to give her age.
“It came together because we had a similar vision,” DeJesus said. “It’s an idea whose time has come. Where it will go depends on our energy level.”