Charles H (Chuck) Kuck is the managing attorney at Kuck Baxter Immigration in Atlanta, Georgia. He served as national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (2008–2009) and as president of the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (2010–2014). He is currently an adjunct professor of law at Emory Law School. He previously served as an adjunct at the University of Georgia for 13 years for both survey and advanced immigration law classes. He was named one of the top five immigration attorneys in the world by Chambers and Partners (most recently in 2017) and the best immigration lawyer in Georgia by Best Lawyers (2017). He was previously named one of the “100 Most Influential Georgians” by Georgia Trend magazine.
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of a career in immigration law?
Immigration law is about changing lives. It doesn’t get more rewarding than helping people achieve their own dreams. Not many people get to do that, that’s the primary benefit of being an immigration lawyer. The second is being able to shape our laws in ways to help our country improve. We are not only changing individual lives, but by bringing people to this country in ways that they couldn’t otherwise do themselves we are able to make this country stronger. As a country, the more diverse we are, the more people we bring in legally, that shapes us and makes us stronger and greater. At the same time, the challenges reflect the difficulty of constantly fitting square pegs into every shifting round hole of immigration law.
The Trump administration is intent on limiting legal immigration to the US through policy and adjudicative methods. What challenges do these changes pose for lawyers?
The Trump administration has been a disaster for legal immigration into the US. The actions that it has taken thus far, promised during the election, will have generational overtones as we move forward in the process. One of the worst things the administration has done is take away a requirement that a request for evidence be sent when information is not properly or completely submitted with an application, according to the dictates of the officer reviewing the information. Another change that has been particularly difficult is dealing with requests for evidence for information that is not required by the law or regulation and is literally made up. When you don’t know how to properly file an application anymore after doing it for 30 years, you know something is wrong with the system or how it is being implemented. The Trump administration has weaponised its anti-immigration sentiments to limit the ability of companies to hire who they need to hire – not necessarily who they want to hire but who they need to hire to be successful in our economy. This will have long-term economic and societal consequences, unless the efforts of the Trump administration are stymied by Congress or overturned immediately after his departure from office.
How are federal courts being used in response to the Trump administration’s approach to legal immigration?
Every legal challenge that has been brought against the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies has succeeded and the Trump administration has lost every case, except for the modified and very limited “Muslim ban” that was upheld by the Supreme Court, based upon invalid information given to the court about waivers that were available from certain countries whose citizens are now banned from immigrating to the United States. In our practice, we have used the federal courts to hold the immigration service accountable for its actions for 30 years. The federal courts are our last opportunity to hold the Trump administration accountable and to hold them to the law as written by the US Congress. This federal court work is something that we pride ourselves in as a law firm, and is something we must do as lawyers to maintain any sense of stability and legality to our current system.
How have long-term visa holders been impacted by changes in application and renewal processes?
When you think about people that have been here for 10 years on an H1B from India because they have immensely long and unnecessary waiting lines, then they’re being told that the job for which they’ve been approved for the past 10 years is now no longer a specialty occupation because of some made-up, unknown reason, it creates a massive disruption in the workplace, for the employer and in the lives of the individual who has been waiting in the green-card line with their valid visas. It is yet another example of weaponising the immigration law to both destroy lives and hurt our economy, in the guise of being pro-American. The reality is, being pro-American is welcoming immigrants and making the immigration system make sense. It is making the system clear and straightforward, and helping people through a process that should not be complicated; that’s what we as lawyers do and will continue to do.
How, and to what extent, has the role of a US immigration lawyer evolved over your career?
In my 30 years as a lawyer, the law itself has been tweaked by Congress but has not been substantially rewritten since 1996. Today, we are much more cognisant of not only what the law and regulations require, but the policies and practices that have been implemented over the past 30 years that help us to better understand not only the requirements to assist clients to remain and immigrate legally to the United States, but also what we as lawyers must do: to remain ever-diligent in providing accurate and complete information to our clients. The most important difference between now and 30 years ago is the volume of information, the volume of changes and the policy changes that are ever-present in our immigration laws.
What advice would you give to individuals navigating the US immigration system in the current political climate?
Get an experienced immigration lawyer! You can no longer self-navigate the immigration system, nor rely on inexperienced practitioners or those who dabble in immigration law. I am far too often hired by people whose previous lawyers have messed up their cases, filed incorrect information and have been denied or been given an almost impossible-to-answer request for evidence. The best way to obtain legal immigration benefits in the United States is to use an experienced immigration lawyer to help you navigate the process.
In your opinion, how will American culture be impacted if current anti-immigration sentiments continue?
If current anti-immigration sentiments continue, it is going to be a very difficult place to live – not only for the minority of non-white people currently here but also for native-born citizens. The reality is this: we have always been a nation of immigrants. And because we are a nation of immigrants we are better off, not worse. I’m fond of saying that lazy people don’t walk across the desert, and non-entrepreneurial people don’t come to the United States to start a business in greater numbers than those born here in America. We cannot afford to allow an anti-immigrant sentiment to continue to remain in the United States by politicians or nativists in our society because by doing so, we make ourselves weaker as a country, we remove ourselves from leadership of the world, and we extinguish the flame of liberty and democracy and capitalism that we have carried for more than 230 years.
How has the strong performance of the US economy impacted your practice?
The economy has been strong for the past six years. Employers are hiring, and employment and investor visa work has exploded. The biggest problem we have now is that there are far more jobs then there are people looking for jobs in America. Without immigration to America, and without companies wanting to hire people from abroad, our employers will not be able to compete internationally. With the demand high for trained and even unskilled labour, as immigration lawyers, we have no shortage of demand for our services and expertise.
Charles H (Chuck) Kuck is the managing attorney at Kuck Baxter Immigration in Atlanta, Georgia. He served as national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (2008–2009) and as president of the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (2010–2014). He is currently an adjunct professor of law at Emory Law School. He previously served as an adjunct at the University of Georgia for 13 years for both survey and advanced immigration law classes. He was named one of the top five immigration attorneys in the world by Chambers and Partners (most recently in 2018) and the best immigration lawyer in Georgia by Best Lawyers (2018). He was previously named one of the “100 Most Influential Georgians” by Georgia Trend magazine.
What motivated you to dedicate your career to immigration law?
Long before my time as AILA president, I believed that immigration law is a calling, not necessarily something you choose to practise. In my case, I had never even considered immigration law a career path, as in law school in the 1980s, we had just “resolved” the “problem” of immigration with the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Even before I had received my bar admission in the fall after graduation, I had accepted my first pro bono asylum case, and my eyes (and heart) were opened to a career that not only would allow me to provide for my family, but to literally save and change lives for many people. This decision made itself, and I consider myself blessed to have been guided down this path.
What qualities make an effective immigration lawyer?
Empathy, compassion and a strong understanding of business. What a lot of non-immigration lawyers don’t understand is that for our clients, their immigration case is the most important thing in their lives. They wake up in the morning and go to bed at night worrying about it. As lawyers, we must not only be aware of that, but be sympathetic to it too. But it would be very easy to just express empathy and compassion all the time, and work yourself into the poor house. As immigration lawyers, we add value – extraordinary value – to people’s lives and a company’s bottom line. We need to be aware of that, and bill and collect accordingly.
How has your Federal Court practice evolved over the past few years?
Early on in my career, federal court litigation was infrequent, and reserved for those extraordinary cases of monumental government incompetence or intentional misinterpretation. Today – with the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order (BAHA), the staffing of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and other government agencies run by nativists and anti-immigrant leadership – federal court litigation is an essential part of a good immigration lawyer’s arsenal of persuasion. Immigration lawyers cannot be afraid of holding the government accountable.
How have requests for evidence (RFEs) impacted the efficiency of immigration proceedings?
RFEs have become a nightmare for companies and individuals who think the old way of getting approvals would continue under a supposed “business-friendly” administration. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the biggest fight immigration lawyers have faced during the first year of the Trump administration has been to help clients understand that we are not kidding when we want a crazy amount of information, we never requested before, to get a case approved. I believe it is only a matter of time before large companies get tired of denials of renewals for long-time employees and begin to join the litigation efforts that are now being done, generally by individuals and small companies. That will be the turning point for change.
How do you help clients overcome uncertainty around immigration policy in order to plan for their long-term business development?
The key here is to sit clients down when we first meet and outline the entire process, emphasise the difficulty of every step, and make sure they understand that nothing is guaranteed, but expectations and results can be managed. You must get the client, the employee and the employer to commit to the entire process. They have to be “all-in” on documents, explanation and supporting information.
What impact do you expect restrictive immigration policies to have on the US economy in the long term?
Continued legal immigration, at all levels of the employment, economic, and family spectrum, is essential to a growing economy and the USA’s position in the world, morally, economically and militarily. The Trump administration’s current immigration policies are shortsighted and economically unsustainable. In a word, they are stupid. Eventually, this administration will be gone, and all these terrible policies, regulations and positions will be reversed. For some, it will take a while, but we will fix them nonetheless.
How has the BAHA, introduced in April 2017, impacted the market?
BAHA is beyond horrible when applied in the immigration context. It is wildly vague, allowing for bizarre decision-making at the USCIS and consulate levels, and because it is not constrained in any way, it is leading to a continuing reinterpretation of existing laws in ways, frankly, that no one anticipated.
You have an active pro bono practice. Why is it so important for lawyers to engage in this kind of work?
Many immigrants live in the shadows or at the bottom of the economic spectrum. Not everyone is an EB-5 investor or a multi-national manager. Many are labourers, asylum seekers or victims of domestic violence. We have a legal and, more importantly, a moral obligation in assisting our fellow man and woman to ensure that they receive the fullest protection of the law and due process as we are able. As a lawyer, you might not win that pro bono case, but what you will win is the gratitude of a client and their family, and that feeling that you have lived up to your oath as a lawyer in the greatest legal system in the world.
Charles Kuck is “a bright and dedicated practitioner” who is “very well respected” by peers for his expert handling of immigration visas and labour certifications. One source says, “He is a leader in immigration litigation.”
Mr Kuck received his BA degree from Brigham Young University in 1986. He earned his JD degree, cum laude, from Arizona State University Law School in 1989. He is admitted to practise law in Georgia, Arizona and Washington, DC. He has been admitted to the Bar of the US Supreme Court, nine Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals, and numerous Federal District Courts.
Mr Kuck is the founder and managing partner of Kuck Immigration Partners LLC and oversees its worldwide immigration practice. Mr Kuck assists international immigrant investors, employers and employees with business and professional visas, labour certifications, immigrant visas, consular representation, and citizenship matters. Mr Kuck also maintains an active federal court practice focusing on immigration issues. He has represented asylum seekers and others in more than 700 trials before the immigration courts.
Mr Kuck’s clients include technology firms, manufacturers, multinational corporations, individual EB-5 investors and entrepreneurs, as well as families, individual immigrants and asylum seekers. He maintains a robust and rewarding pro bono practice, and has been an adjunct Professor of Law at Emory University and the University of Georgia for the last 17 years.
In 2017, Mr Kuck was named as one of the top five most highly regarded corporate immigration lawyers in the world by Who’s Who Legal: Corporate Immigration Lawyers; as one of the top five names in immigration by Who’s Who Legal: Thought Leaders; and as one of Georgia’s Legal Elite. Mr Kuck has again been named by Atlanta Magazine as a Georgia Super Lawyer in the field of Immigration Law for 2017.
Mr Kuck is listed in Who’s Who Legal: Corporate Immigration Attorneys, Chambers USA, Chambers Global and The Best Lawyers in America. He is the voice of the most-listened-to podcast on immigration in the United States (“The Immigration Hour”). His blog provides insightful analysis of cutting-edge immigration and political topics relating to our broken immigration system. (www.musingsonimmigration.blogspot.com). Mr Kuck has written numerous law review articles and op-eds on various US immigration law subjects, and has spoken at hundreds of legal, industry, business, and civic organisations on a broad range of immigration topics. Mr Kuck was part of the group of attorneys that stopped a key provision of Georgia’s HB-87 anti-immigration law, and is currently representing DACA recipients seeking to pay in-state tuition to attend Georgia Colleges and Universities.
Mr Kuck is a former national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He is a founding member and former president of the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL). He currently serves as co-chair of the City of Atlanta’s Welcoming America commission, and as a board member of the Georgia Restaurant Association. He was recently selected as the principal immigration attorney for the Andean Parliament, and gives frequent free community forums to churches, schools and community groups, educating immigrants on their rights and opportunities in the United States.
Mr Kuck has testified in Congress on immigration issues, is frequently quoted in the press, and has appeared on broadcast stations such as CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, Univision, Telemundo, Democracy Now, CNBC, National Public Radio, as well as in and written publications, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, The National Journal, The Miami Herald and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, among others.