The Next Wave: Young Leaders in Immigration Law

This fall, the Pozen Center convened a panel of attorneys to discuss the future of immigration law strategies and practices in the United States. In conversation with Susan Gzesh, Chirag Badlani, Lam Ho, Luis Mancheno, and Mony Ruiz-Velasco each represented different approaches that lawyers can take to ground their careers in human rights and pursue justice for immigrants.


Chirag Badlani is a Partner at the Chicago law firm of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd., where he represents clients in a wide variety of civil matters, with a focus in the areas of civil rights, constitutional law, and labor and employment. He also represents clients in asylum and refugee matters. Badlani spoke about striking the balance between working on cases for paying clients and making time for pro bono and activist projects. In addition to his work representing clients, Badlani is on the board of the National Immigrant Justice Center and Treasurer of CALA’s Board of Directors.


Lam Ho is the founder and executive director of Chicago’s Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA). Ho spoke about CALA’s practice of community activism lawyering, which involves treating community and activist organizations as true partners in problem-solving and deciding legal strategy. By leveraging the power of their partners’ grassroots organizing, CALA is able to achieve better legal outcomes. This work ranges widely, and CALA provides free legal services to organizations including Organized Communities Against Deportation, Mano a Mano, the Autonomous Tenants Union, and the Sex Workers Outreach Project. With partnership with CALA, these groups set their own priorities and goals.


Luis Mancheno is an immigration attorney based in New York, who received asylum in the United States after experiencing homophobic persecution in his native Ecuador. As an attorney, Mancheno is dedicated to humanizing his clients through centering their stories and experiences in the courtroom. Mancheno spoke about the unconventional and performative strategies he has used in the past to humanize clients when they are denied their literal “day in court,” forced to appear via video feed, rather than in person. These strategies, which range from asking his clients to smile and wave to the judge, to entering Google map instructions into evidence (demonstrating the route his client would follow from immigration detention center to their arranged housing), help him fight for his clients to be treated as people, rather than numbers.


Mony Ruiz-Velasco is the executive director of Proyecto de Acción de los Suburbios del Ostre / West Suburban Action Project (PASO). PASO is a social justice organization that fights for immigrants rights. Rather than focusing exclusively on legal services, PASO organizes grassroots campaigns around their clients’ cases. In one example, Ruiz-Velasco discussed organizing activists, faith leaders, and elected officials to accompany an elderly woman to her ICE appointment. PASO uses public pressure and activism to achieve better outcomes for their clients than they would through legal representation alone.