An immigration law attorney lives her dream—and fights for others.
Immigration law attorney Razeen Zaman is living her dream, providing legal counsel to immigrants at Legal Services NYC as part of a two-year fellowship she earned from the Immigration Justice Corps.
It’s personal work—she was 2 years old when her parents fled political violence in South Asia. They settled in Queens but were scammed by an unscrupulous immigration lawyer, and it wasn’t until high school that Zaman discovered she was undocumented.
Now she has a license to practice law in New York. Working from an office on Court Street in Brooklyn, she represents immigrants who may be seeking asylum or fighting deportation. In one case, she has been trying to get the federal immigration bureaucracy to act on a Syrian refugee’s request for legal status. Other cases concern legal permanent residents who were convicted of crimes and face deportation.
The job has given her an inside look at the workings of U.S. immigration law, which she says sorely needs reform. It comes as the Trump administration cracks down on undocumented immigrants, vowing to withhold funding from municipalities that won’t help federal officials detain undocumented immigrants.
“People are terrified,” Zaman says. “The Obama administration deported more immigrants than any other in U.S. history, so we weren’t starting from a great place.”
When her current fellowship ends in 2018, she’s hoping to work on immigration policy and bring broader change to the system.
“I like helping one-on-one,” she says, “but I also want to find a way to change the intricate, draconian system we now have.”
—David McKay Wilson