Navigating the Complexities of US Immigration with Neil A. Weinrib
In this episode of the Rising Leaders of New York podcast, we welcome guest Neil A. Weinrib, Managing Director at Neil A. Weinrib & Associates, Immigration and General Practice.
Tune in as Neil talks about:
- navigating the complex US immigration system
- the desirability of the US as a destination for Foreign Nationals
- changes in immigration policy under the Trump and Biden Administrations
- the range of immigration cases his firm handles
- social services and immigration reform
After establishing himself as an immigration expert while working for a large immigration and general practice firm, Neil decided to start his own immigration practice in 1980, which has significantly expanded over the years. Neil A. Weinrib & Associates (NawLaw) is a premier boutique law firm consisting of more than 25 attorneys, legal assistants, and support staff – and is still growing. Neil is the principal and managing attorney of NawLaw and is heavily involved in all aspects of the firm. He is relentlessly dedicated to the firm’s clients and assisting them in achieving their U.S. immigration goals.
Neil frequently lectures on immigration topics for organizations around the country and has been named a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyer Magazine based on peer recommendations. He has lectured on immigration to organizations such as SCORE NY (U.S. Small Business Administration), community groups, and educational institutions including the Manhattan School of Music, NY Film Academy, and the NYU School of Continuing Education. He has also conducted continuing legal education seminars, both locally and nationally. Neil has also lectured to human resources executives at various companies as well as the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. Neil has appeared on national radio and webinars.
Learn more about Neil A. Wienrib:
Visit his website: https://nawlaw.com/
Connect with Neil on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/neilaweinrib/
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Read the full transcript:
VOICEOVER ( 00:00:01): Welcome to Rising Leaders of New York with your host David S. Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. They present to you conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers. You can find this show at www.hillmoin.com and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast and more. Now, here are the hosts of Rising Leaders of New York.
DAVID ( 00:00:39): York. Hello, everybody. My name is David S. Zwerin and I’m the senior trial attorney at Hill and Moines L LP. We are a plaintiff’s personal injury law firm focusing specifically on premises liability and construction acts and cases for seriously injured victims. But I also get the pleasure of hosting this podcast which is rising leaders of New York where every episode I get to talk to important people on the cutting edge that you and New Yorkers need to know about in the world of law and other topics. And this week we have an amazing guest, Neil Weinrib of the losses of Neil Weinrib and Associates. Neil is a very experienced immigration attorney and immigration is an area that tends to be very relevant and highly connected to plaintiffs personal injury law firm and has spent his career selfishly advocating for the rights of foreign nationals and people here with various immigration concerns. Uh going through a, a, a system that’s very tricky and hard to navigate. I’m sure now more than ever and what’s happened over the last 56 years, look forward to having a great conversation with Neil today. So Neil, welcome to the show.
NEIL ( 00:01:58): Thank you, David. Happy to be here/
DAVID ( 00:02:02): Neil. Can you tell everybody a little bit about yourself? How did you end up becoming an immigration lawyer and starting your firm?
NEIL ( 00:02:9): Sure, great question. It all started many years ago when I was in college with a trip to Israel as a, a foreign study program. And I realized that there was so much going on outside of, of Pennsylvania and the US especially being in Israel in the Middle East back in the seventies. It was a very dynamic time and, but it gave me the exposure to, to meet people of various cultures and backgrounds. And I was, I found it fascinating and I said, you know, I like this a lot. I really want to do something that’s global and international. And so when I came back to school at Penn State University, I was like, this is so insular. I’ve, I’ve got to arrange to eventually get out of here and do something more worldly. I then, took a master’s in International Law and International Affairs at the Fletcher School of Tufts University. The goal at that time I was gonna get a phd and become a college professor. And, at that time, the teaching market started getting very crowded. Um, and then I said, well, not a great market for phd S. What should I do? I said, well, maybe I’ll go to law school and my father is a lawyer. Why not? You know? So I, from there, I went on to law school, which I didn’t really love. And I was like, what am I doing here? It was only after I got out of law school and started practicing law that I, I said this isn’t bad and, but I really want to get into an international practice. So I joined a firm after a year of, of doing general practice, I joined a firm that was doing immigration and, and, and various practice areas and, and that’s when I found my calling. I said, well, now I’m working with foreign individuals at that. At the time. I, I got out of law school. There were very few opportunities for lawyers going into international law. There were only a handful of firms that were involved in international law and most of their graduates were coming out of Harvard and Yale at that time. And so consequently, immigration law was very appealing to me. I realized and learned that I was helping foreign nationals achieve the American dream even back in the eighties.
DAVID ( 00:04:29): What was it about international law that you found so appealing? You know,
NEIL ( 00:04:32): Well, basically, just the, the fact of, of, of the entire global picture dealing with, with foreign law systems versus the American legal system you know, in things that were affecting foreign nationals in various countries. And how the US legal system was derived from the British system and, and you know, issues dealing with war crimes and things like that. It’s just very interesting to me. But then on the immigration side, you know, I got to meet people who had legitimate issues at that time. Iran was going through a revolution. Jews were leaving or trying to leave the former Soviet Union, it was a very tumultuous time for us. Immigration back in the eighties, it was a huge influx of people from Iran, Russia and many other countries, Romania, the eastern former eastern bloc countries, people were trying to get to the US from Romania, Hungary Poland, et cetera. And not to mention China because then China started going through their issue, Tiananmen Square much later in 1989. So the eighties were a very tumultuous time in US immigration. And so I, I was entering a field that was just going through a lot of radical changes and and the foreign nationals were desperate to be in the US. America was going through you know, a growth period even though there was some signs of recession. But as bad as I’ve often said, as bad as bad it is as it is around the world, it’s much better in the US. America is always the land of opportunity and America has been a magnet even today. It’s the same, the same thing. Despite everything we read in the newspaper and all the tumult and issues, America is still an attractive place for foreign nationals from everywhere. It continues to be a magnet.
DAVID ( 00:06:29): Have you seen the immigration system evolve over the last few years, particularly since since 26 16 or the beginning of 2017, you know
NEIL ( 00:06:39): it’s been somewhat slow to evolve. Um because in many aspects, our immigration quota system was formed in 1976 1977. So the numerical allocations that allow foreign nationals in have been in place for 40 years, which is obviously outdated. That’s why there are restrictions on people coming in, particularly from India and China. They wait much longer time. For example, if a US citizen applies for a brother or sister, they’re gonna wait 14 years to come into the US. Unmarried Children are gonna wait 8 to 10 years because the system is is somewhat antiquated. I often say it’s like driving an old car. It, it works but it moves very slowly and that’s our American immigration system, it’s due for Nova. So then you throw into the mix the political situation going on in Central America including Venezuela and various of Guatemala, various other countries, Brazil even now. Haiti, I mean, there’s so much unrest going on in the world. Ukraine, of course. Uh and, and many other countries that America is still a magnet despite all of the difficulties to get in. So despite everything that goes on here, it’s still a much better place and a land of opportunity for foreign nationals, especially in European countries where growth is, is limited and, and in Asia too, because of established institutions and barriers, America still offers tremendous opportunity for foreign nationals. It really does, it’s no different than it was before.
DAVID ( 00:08:17): What are, what are, what are all the things you do for foreign nationals like for those who aren’t terribly familiar with immigration law, what are some of the issues you handle what a client come to you for? How do you help them?
NEIL ( 00:08:28): Great question. But we handle the entire spectrum of us, immigration including asylum for people from Ukraine, Russia, China. Um and, and, and other countries that are people who are facing persecution, Central America, et cetera. Plus we handle people who are marrying American citizens, relative petitions, people petitioning for spouses, Children, et cetera, parents. We also handle employment related visas, people who are trying to come to the US to live and work here. And that would include the entire spectrum from people coming as temporary workers that were seasonal workers work in hotels and farms to people who are principal dancers for the New York City Ballet. We handle the entire spectrum of extraordinary ability, professionals, dancers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, writers, et cetera, musicians. So we our firm is, is big enough, we have the bandwidth to handle the entire spectrum of us. Immigration and it’s the demand is in every sector from what we see
DAVID ( 00:9:42): now. And we talked a little bit about this before. The podcast. Immigration is something that comes up a lot in personal injury. You know, not everybody who gets injured in a personal injury action is, is a citizen or is here with documentation. What are some of the issues like you run into? Do you ever like run into people who are foreign nationals? They’re here, they lack some degree of documentation and they have concerns about. Should I bring a a personal injury suit? And what would that mean for my immigration status? Sure.
NEIL ( 00:10:18): You know, many foreign nationals especially if they’re from, if their English is not great or if their status is uncertain, maybe may be severely injured but hesitant to bring an action because they don’t know how it will play out. They have no definitive immigration status. I mean, we have people who are in the US for many years without status. So sometimes they can be injured in, in somewhat afraid or reticent to bring an action. What they, what they often learn is that they are eligible for Medicaid in New York. New York has very liberal Medicaid requirements so they shouldn’t be afraid to get necessary emergent emergency medical treatment. And that’s why New York, for example, such a magnet to foreign nationals, including New Jersey and the New England States. Whereas other states, especially down south are much stingier in terms of Medicaid requirements, much shortened time periods to, to receive assistance. But foreign nationals I, I believe are increasingly recognizing that their rights are expanding. And so we’re seeing less I would say reticence. And, but still they, many of them are involved in construction accidents, car accidents, pedestrian, sidewalk, you name it, medical malpractice, et cetera. I mean, many of them are victimized. And when they often contact us with various types of claims, we, we can send them to the right expert like Helen Moy, if our clients are injured, we, we know where to send them to specialists. They’ll often ask me, can I recommend a specialist in a particular area such as personal injury? And so we’re, we’re often the, the starting point for a lot of foreign nationals who don’t know where to go, go or where to turn
DAVID ( 00:12:10): And I’m sure you counsel your clients about this too. I imagine most of them are scared. Like you said, if you, if you go to the hospital, if, if they, if you go to Coney Island Hospital, are they going to be asking a client? What’s your immigration status here? And if they say undocumented or they gonna be calling ins?
NEIL ( 00:12:26): Unfortunately not. We’ve never seen that happen. New York has been a very safe venue for foreign nationals there. I’ve never heard of anything like that happening. Fortunately,
DAVID ( 00:12:37): nor have I a bit of a rhetorical question.
NEIL ( 00:12:39): Well, you know, it’s, but it’s a, it’s a legit question because for example, it was a time when, if people were arrested by the, by the police, let’s say in various locales including NASA Suffolk County, Westchester Yonkers, the police might report them to immigration, customs enforcement or ice. And so people often got into trouble because of even minor criminal incidents involving perhaps DW I driving while intoxicated assault battery, things like that. And, and therefore people were often found themselves in, in a very difficult situation. But we’re seeing now the police authorities are not actively cooperating with immigration and customs enforcement. So it’s very rare that that happens now, but there was a time when it was a real, a real threat New York. And that has been very welcome to foreign nationals as we know from people coming from the southern border. New York City is hosting a huge number of foreign nationals which is training social services at this point and they’re entitled to many social services including food stamps and various forms of, of, of financial assistance.
DAVID ( 00:13:55): A lot of, a lot of things, a concern I seem to hear from immigrants is that aside from that concern about, oh, can I get medical treatment? Who will pay for it? And will I get in trouble doing it? I’m often hearing the concerns about, oh, the, the, the defense attorney report me will be the insurance carrier reported. So certainly in, in my venue, I know people are always concerned and those concerns are not found. That’s just simply not how personal injury cases go. Just because somebody lacks documentation doesn’t mean they’re not, they don’t have rights the state of New York and they should bring a claim and they shouldn’t be afraid of that. An adversary is going to retribute just because they lack papers. Well,
NEIL ( 00:14:43): definitely. Well, let me say this. There’s been a big sea change since the Trump administration where any, anybody who fell out of status or had no legal status was subject to deportation or removal. Biden came in and they, they changed that policy. So now immigration is only chasing after people who commit serious criminal actions, criminal, you know, acts basically. So in other words, the foreign nationals should be less afraid now than ever to, report an accident or an injury or something like that. Whereas in the past, they might have been fearful of being reported to immigration, customs enforcement or ice. Now, they don’t really have to worry because, immigration enforcement is now prioritizing criminals, people committing serious criminal acts versus really, minor acts. So it’s a much better environment now for foreign nationals, they can, they can pretty much rest assured that they’re not in danger.
DAVID ( 00:15:40): That that’s certainly good to hear from, from my perspective, from what I do, I’m curious, in, in your, practice, where do you go to, to, to litigate or, or handle these immigration matters and how is the court system functioning to process what I’m sure must be just an immense amount of immigration matters in the past 56 years.
NEIL ( 00:16:04): Yeah. Definitely, people who are, let’s say stopped at the border are often, referred for, deportation removal proceedings. They may be issued notices to appear without date and they’re required to keep in touch with immigration as to their address for future hearings. But what’s happened is that the entire system is so overloaded and clogged that people are waiting years to be called for their hearings. Trump, the Trump administration adopted. Interestingly a policy whereby they were prioritizing people who were newly arrested, they were getting priority over people who were waiting years to have their asylum claim heard. Whereas new arrivals were put on an accelerated calendar, that’s now changed. And again, because of the change in administrations, the Biden administration has been much more pro immigrant to a degree, of course, at the southern border. They’re trying to toughen up and pass very restrictive rules and regulations to appease the American public because of the huge influx of foreign nationals. Since COVID, the combination of COVID and political events occurring in Central America that were tumultuous. So it’s it’s a perfect storm that’s created and generated so much us immigration including Ukraine, Russia, a lot of we have Russian nationals coming in through Mexican border because they’re desperate to get out of Russia for fear of being forced into military service, for example. So we’re seeing a huge stream coming especially from the southern border, some coming from the northern border, from Canada, but predominantly from the southern border.
DAVID ( 00:17:55): And I guess it, it’s very based on the situation of the person seeking asylum or citizen or a or a work visa, whatever it is. But it sounds like the system is still very backlogged. So I wonder what do you think can be done to change it? People, obviously, politicians have been talking about immigration reform for decades. Do you think that’s the thing that’s actually ever going to happen? We would make it
NEIL ( 00:18:17): happen. Sure. There was the, I I would say in the last 10 years, we’re so the there were opportunities for, for reform during the Bush administration, for example, he was a proponent for immigration reform and then it got knocked down at the very, very end. Although the president, former president was very involved in immigration reform, the Obama administration was actually somewhat anti immigration. They would, they actually deported more people than Trump did in the first few years of the Obama administration. Biden saw an election proposing immigration reform and positive change and that quickly I would say dampened because of the what happened during COVID with the huge influx of people coming in from Central America and Mexico, et cetera. And and, and so what things have really changed? We don’t have the border wall but the enforcement activities is still very strong, but people are still trying to come to the US. The US is still a major magnet for foreign nationals.
DAVID ( 00:19:27): Do you think anything is going to be changing in the years ahead? And so what’s going to lead to actual immigration reform after, you know, so many administrations that say they will and doesn’t have I
NEIL ( 00:19:38): a great question. I don’t see anything happening in the next two years during the final years of the Biden administration. I think it would take a democratic overhaul of both houses to result in any immigration reform. It’s unfortunate that during Obama’s first two years, he had a democratic majority in the Senate and the House, but no immigration reform went through. It was a unique window and opportunity.
DAVID ( 00:20:06): Why was it? Why didn’t they pass it in the 09 and oh and 10. What’s that? Why do, why do you think it stalled out in 2009 and 2010?
NEIL ( 00:20:14): We, I really don’t know. It just didn’t have any gravitational pull for some reason. I think, you know why II, I guess the economy banking crisis was like month and center. I think that’s why in, in 2008 9, we were dealing with financial issues that were, you know, outranking immigration. That’s probably why it didn’t happen. So now we have to wait and see what happens in the next next presidential election and to see if democrats retake the house, I think if, if that is the case, that would be a prime opportunity for reform and change.
DAVID ( 00:20:55): Very interesting. Well, thank you so much for joining me here today, Neil. I thought this was amazing and lightening conversation. I certainly learned a lot and help all our listeners did too for the, for our listeners, if they want to get in touch with you, Neil. How might they do? So?
NEIL ( 00:21:13): Definitely, they can give us a call. Our number is (212) 964-9282. And our email is info at nawlaw dot com. We’re happy to, to meet people. We’re very proud of the fact that we, we provide honest and successful immigration services. There’s a lot of fraud that goes on in, in our immigration, immigration legal community. A lot of our clients or people who come to us have experienced problems with, with lawyers who take their money and run. We have a track, we don’t advertise generally. We have a track record based on client referral, lo lawyer referral and we have a, a large influx of people who know that they can depend on us for honest and effective immigration services and we span the entire spectrum. Thank you for everything. Let me add, we have a terrific staff of, of very experienced lawyers and paralegals who are Multilingual including Spanish Russian and various other languages.
DAVID ( 00:22:20): No, absolutely, Neil. I know Neil to be a tremendous immigration attorney. Our office knows him well and thank you for everything you do for for foreign nationals who who need you to protect their rights and and for educating us as well as our clients on the tricky immigration issues they may face while they got personal injury matters. You provide an amazing service and it’s been great talking to you today.
NEIL ( 00:22:44): Thank you, David. I should also add that. We, we successfully took a case to the US Supreme Court and won one of the few immigration law firms that have had that accomplishment. You know, we’re very proud of that.
DAVID ( 00:22:56): They should be. Well, thank you so much for joining me, Neil. My name is David. And again, I’m the senior trial here at Hill and Moines L LP. Our focus is on serious premises, liability and construction accident cases. You can reach us at (212) 668-6000. Otherwise, I hope you reach us by tuning in to this episode and all the others posted and I look forward to speaking to you at the next episode and I’ll be joined by another great guest who is a rising leader of New York. Thank you everybody.
VOICEOVER ( 00:23:31): You’ve been listening to rising leaders of New York hosted by David Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. You can catch prior episodes at www.hillmoin.com and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and more. Thank you for your positive reviews, comments and sharing this show with others.