by Jacob Geiger, Work It Richmond
December 14, 2011
When Dustin Dyer started law school, he wanted to make use of the Spanish degree he’d earned at the University of Richmond.
“Originally I guess I thought I’d be some sort of jet-setting international lawyer,” Dyer said. “But after a while I realized that international lawyers just sit in New York talking to people who already speak English.”
So Dyer spent two years working for the public defender’s office in Louisville, Ky. Before landing a post as staff lawyer for the Central American Resource Center, a non-profit that needed a bi-lingual lawyer to advance its mission of working with immigrants. That gave him plenty of time to use that Spanish degree.
Today he runs Dyer Immigration Law Group, working with two other attorneys on a variety of immigration and visa cases. About 75 percent of his clients are Hispanic, he said, generally hailing from Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico. He also works with the area’s Indian and Russian populations on visa issues.
Immigration law covers two distinct practices. Family immigration law deals with individuals seeking to obtain green cards or visas that would allow other family members to re-locate to the United States. Business immigration law focuses on companies who are seeking to bring in employees for specific tasks or duties where they have been unable to find the right American worker, Dyer said.
Most small immigration practices focus on the former area and leave business immigration to large cases. Dyer handles both.
“That is unusual, but I’m able to because I have experience with business law from my past jobs,” he said.
The perception, he said, is often that businesses want to bring in employees who will accept lower wages. But Dyer noted that before employment visas can be granted, a company has to test the job market, often by placing help wanted ads in newspapers and online job sites.
“And in today’s market, almost any job ad will get a response,” he said. “A few years ago, if you placed an ad for a dishwasher in a restaurant it might go unanswered.”
The same holds true in other industries, like agriculture and construction, that have long been dominated by immigrant workers. Dyer said his business in those sectors, especially construction, has slowed alongside the overall slowdown in those industries.
Dyer said he also tries to use his business to burst myths about immigration laws. Though U.S. policy does favor keeping families together, it’s not true that a person born in the United States to parents who are illegal immigrants can convey some sort of legal status on the parent.
“That so-called ‘anchor baby’ can’t petition for its parents to be admitted until the child is 21, and the parents can’t get any government benefits, because they’re not legal residents and don’t have a green card.”
Dyer said his business is driven in large part by its complexity. Laws are set by Congress but interpreted and enforced by the immigration service and Department of Homeland Security. That means they change on a regular basis.
“You’ve got to stay on top of that,” Dyer said. “It’s the same reason people take their tax questions to tax lawyers.”
But Dyer said the most important part of this job is the personal satisfaction.
“The biggest benefit is seeing that I’ve made an impact on people’s lives and gotten to meet people from all over the world.”