Kathryn P. Russell specialises in US immigration law, particularly family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, removal defence, and citizenship. At Robert Brown LLC, she provides knowledgeable legal counsel and dedicated representation in all areas of US immigration law. She discusses with us how her initial work with refugees helped shape her journey into immigration law.
As Thought Leader, can you share what your main motivation was behind specialising in US immigration law?
US immigration law is extraordinarily complex and there is plenty of confusion as to how it works. My main motivation for specialising in the practice of US immigration law is to help people during some of the most stressful and uncertain chapters of their lives, ranging from clients fleeing persecution, to taking the leap of investing in a new US enterprise. I started my career representing refugees and victims of human trafficking – some girls as young as 12 – and the atrocities my clients endured came as a shock to my system. In short time, I thrived on seeking justice for those who needed my help and I immediately grew into the role of advocate. I haven’t looked back.
You are experienced in family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, removal defence, and citizenship; can you describe the differences in these cases, in terms of what they demand from you as a professional? How do you adapt?
There is a tendency in this practice to pick one aspect of US immigration law and stick to a niche, whether employment-based, family-based, removal defence, or citizenship. I find that the best practice isn’t to focus on the differences, but on the overlap and ways these areas connect. For example, a client facing removal proceedings may have an employment-based solution; an employment case may end up with a status or criminal violation that puts them into removal proceedings, or one of the two could have a claim to US citizenship without even being aware of it. From the client’s perspective, the best advocate can see the big picture when spotting issues and crafting innovative case strategies that may not have been attempted before. As a practitioner, this demands a broad foundational understanding of the law and creative thinking when creating solutions for a very diverse clientele. Fundamentally, we’re in the problem-solving business and our clients usually care about results and not so much the process. If we can offer a solution to someone that helps them achieve their desired goal, then how we go about obtaining it is really something that our clientele just trusts us with.
You began your career in refugee resettlement and now practice in all areas of US immigration law with Robert Brown LLC, how has your experience developed your expertise to be at the top of your game?
Each chapter of my career has exposed me to different populations and case types within US immigration law, but I continue to circle back to what drew me to the practice: focused and creative advocacy for my clients. I initially grew into this practice by developing a sense of purpose when working with vulnerable populations and that sense of purpose remains to be a driving factor in my work. Robert Brown LLC has perfected the focus on innovative thinking across all practice areas and fosters the view vocation from a place of purpose, which I consider to be the essential elements of this practice. In guiding our clients through processes with complex federal agencies, I remember that many of my immigrant clients simply want to have a regular life and are interested in many of the same things as everyday Americans – they want to work hard and raise their kids in a safe environment.
What is the most challenging aspect of defending clients in US Immigration Court and how do you overcome this?
The most challenging aspect of removal defence is ensuring that the client’s story is front and centre in everyone’s mind. Our clients come from all around the world and walks of life, some with little to no education, and I find that the best way to capture the story this is through extensive work with my clients, getting to know them, and the impact their removal will have on their families. By thoroughly exploring each and every aspect of removal as it pertains to my clients, helps me become laser focused. Whether I am working with a young woman fleeing persecution or defending a hardworking father from deportation after establishing a life here for decades, being able to humanise the facts and create a sense of moral imperative is crucial. US Immigration law can be shockingly unforgiving, so ultimate success often comes down to how well we tell our client’s story. We don’t want our clients to become case numbers, particularly given the enormous backlog of cases facing Immigration Courts nationwide. If we are able to do humanise the case, then we significantly improve our chances of achieving our client’s goals.
Are there any reformations to US immigration law that you are keen to see change?
2017 brought US immigration law back to the centre of debate on a number of topics but the way the debate is framed has become a false dichotomy: an imagined conflict between the rule of law and creating humane policies to keep families together, but there is room for both. Lawmakers can fashion a system that rewards hard work, while also understanding the importance of family unity. It is important that we have a system that is orderly and recognises the need for certain types of workers and keep our economy moving; it is equally important that as citizens of our communities that we expect those that want to come to our country to respect our laws and policies. While I don’t envy lawmakers, part of my job as an attorney is to face reality that when I’m faced with a problem, I need to solve it.
Kathryn P. Russell, Attorney at Law
Kathryn (Katie) P. Russell received her Juris Doctorate Cum Laude from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and is admitted to practice law in the State of Ohio. Katie graduated from John Carroll University Magna Cum Laude with a double major in History: Latin American Studies Concentration and Spanish. She is fluent in Spanish and has studied at the Universidad Centroamericana with the Casa de la Solidaridad Program in El Salvador and at the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Peru. Prior to joining Robert Brown LLC, Katie served as a Jesuit Volunteer at YMCA International Services in Houston, Texas while specializing in Central American Victim of Human Trafficking and refugee resettlement cases. Katie has been with Robert Brown, LLC since 2009 and is experienced in family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, removal defense, and citizenship.
Robert Brown LLC maintains a global immigration practice, serving clients in Ohio, throughout the United States, and from across the world. The firm practices in the areas of employment-based immigration, family-based immigration, and deportation defense, to assist individuals, families, and companies ranging from small businesses to large corporations. Their unique background and wide-ranging experience in practice gives us a special edge in helping their clients achieve innovative and effective solutions to their problems.