September 8, 2014

Student Feature

2L Gets Real World Immigration Law Experience with D.C. Program

Alexander Holtzman

An interest in immigration law wasn’t something 2L Alex Holtzman simply stumbled upon when he entered law school. It’s a subject he’s been passionate about for quite some time.

The son of an immigrant, Holtzman has worked for a number of community-based organizations, both here and in his home state of Michigan, where he says he saw the many issues immigrant and migrant families face each day.

Although he wasn’t 100 percent sure law school was where he wanted to be after finishing his undergraduate degree in 2010, Holtzman said he quickly realized it was the perfect place for him to further his education while getting one step closer to helping influence legislation concerning immigrants in this country.

His work with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of Chief Counsel this summer through the Washington D.C. Summer Program has reaffirmed that belief for the Moritz law student.

“Professor Christopher Walker was a huge help. I told him about my interest in immigration law. My mom’s an immigrant from Serbia, which kind of stemmed my interest, and I used to work in migrant camps in Michigan so I saw some of the conditions there and that spurred my interest as well,” Holtzman said. “Professor Walker recommended I work for a government agency to try that experience out. I wanted to work at a higher level agency that would work on policy-related issues as well. We came to the decision that I should apply to USCIS and the office of chief counsel.”

During his time with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of Chief Counsel, Holtzman had the opportunity to work on a number of influential cases, from state by state name change procedures to looking at comprehensive immigration reform.

“Getting real-world experience, seeing how lawyers practice immigration law in a government agency has been really helpful for me. I think class work can only go so far in teaching you the substantive areas of law, but seeing the lawyers in the field interpret statues, write memos, respond to real-life news stories, like the unaccompanied minors issues, which has been all over the news of late, has been fascinating to me.”

One of the biggest cases Holtzman has worked on this summer concerned an inadmissibility grounds case related to social media.

“I worked on an interesting terrorist-related inadmissibility grounds case related to social media. The question presented is if an undocumented immigrant, an alien seeking asylum who was already here or someone with refugee status from abroad, likes a terrorist’s activity on Facebook, does that make that particular alien inadmissible to come to the United States under a specific provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act?” Holtzman explained.

But it wasn’t just the work he did that made his externship so memorable. Holtzman said being able to take advantage of the advising professors’ knowledge of the area, the landmarks they traveled to, and meeting with influential people in the community have added to the experience.

“I saw a naturalization ceremony and I went to the secret service for a tour of their facilities. I was able to go to a lot of different places, see different departmental agencies, and get into some neat places I might not be able to get into otherwise,” he said.

Holtzman said he hopes to be able to return to D.C. again next summer to continue pursuing his dream of working in immigration law. He said he would recommend the Washington D.C. Summer Program to any student interested in taking advantage of a worthwhile educational experience.

“I think D.C. is a great opportunity and I would recommend talking to either Professor Walker or Professor Dakota Rudesill about it in detail if it’s something you’re interested in doing,” he said.

Discovery is an internal weekly electronic newsletter for the faculty, staff, and students of the Moritz College of Law. Items to be considered for posting should be submitted to Barbara Peck, Chief Communications Officer, by the Wednesday prior to the Monday release of the newsletter. Items are subject to editing for content and brevity.