By Andrea Strong '94

“THERE HAS NEVER BEEN a more important time to be an immigration lawyer,” said Patrick Taurel ’10, an associate with the immigration practice group at Clark Hill in Washington, D.C., who received the 2018 Joseph Minsky Young Lawyer Award from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Ranked a top lawyer in the field of immigration law by Washingtonian magazine, Taurel has a passion for his work that is deeply personal. Forced migration explains his somewhat unusual family background. His father grew up in Morocco, the descendant of Spanish Jews who relocated to North Africa during the Inquisition, and his mother, a native of Brazil, was the child of immigrants who fled the Nazis and the devastation in their wake.

Brooklyn Law School later fueled that passion, he said, noting the power of the clinical education program. “Participating in the Safe Harbor Project at Brooklyn Law School changed my life,” he explained. “I had the privilege of representing a Tibetan asylum seeker. And thanks to the excellent guidance of Professors Stacy Caplow and Dan Smulian, we won our case. Our client gave me a Tibetan tapestry as a gift, and I keep it in my office to this day as a reminder of what that case meant to me. It was plainly the most important thing I had ever done.”

Taurel, a graduate of Brown University, immersed himself in the world of immigration law at the Law School, interning with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre, and the Immigrant Defense Project. He also credits Interim Dean Maryellen Fullerton for giving him a broad understanding of immigration law, which he continues to rely on today. “Her excellent survey course on immigration law gave me the foundation to grow as an immigration lawyer,” he said. “I still have her casebook on my shelf.”

After graduation, he moved to Boise, Idaho, to work for the leading Idaho immigration law firm, Andrade Legal, representing mostly Mexican immigrants living and working there who faced an array of legal issues. Two years later, he moved to Washington, D.C., to become a fellow with the American Immigration Council, where he focused on prosecutorial discretion policies. There he became knowledgeable on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and authored several practice advisories on DACA and related topics.

When his fellowship concluded, he joined the firm of Benach Ragland (now Benach Collopy), primarily to work with Thomas Ragland, who is one of the most respected immigration lawyers in the country.

“I wanted to develop federal court litigation skills and Thomas is one of the leading litigators in the immigration law community,” Taurel said. When Ragland moved to Clark Hill, he invited Taurel to join the firm with him.

Today, Taurel’s practice focuses on federal court litigation and removal defense, as well as affirmative benefits before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. consulates. He also serves on AILA’s Amicus Committee and previously served on the organization’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Liaison Committee. He devotes a significant amount of time to pro bono work and to mentoring other attorneys handling pro bono immigration cases. His recent pro bono projects include mentoring an attorney representing a Guatemalan woman who was separated from her children at the border.

“I love what I do. Immigration law is intellectually challenging, it raises complex questions of statutory interpretation, and administrative and constitutional law. And as a person who likes meeting new people and hearing their stories, few things are more gratifying than working with clients, winning their cases and giving them the chance to formally become part of this country—something many of my clients have overcome many obstacles to do,” he said. This work, Taurel added, is more urgent than ever. “The Trump administration’s immigration policy has veered, in the words of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, from abhorrent to evil,” he said. “I recognize this may sound hyperbolic, but I believe that in ways big and small, immigration lawyers and advocates are fighting for the soul of our nation.”