Diario Pilipino recently sat down with immigration attorney Kelly O'Reilly to discuss the formation of WILNER & O'REILLY a full-service immigration law firm.
DP: First of all congratulations on the formation of Wilner & O'Reilly.
KSO: Thank you, it's very exciting.
DP: What will be the focus of Wilner & O'Reilly?
KSO: We are a full-service immigration firm devoted exclusively to the practice of immigration law. So our focus, to answer your question, will be to represent our clients in all aspects of immigrating to and remaining in the United States.
DP: Will you represent clients who have problems other than immigration?
KSO: Immigration has natural crossovers into other areas of law, for example, employment law, foreign adoptions, criminal defense and family law. While our practice focus is immigration law, if we can assist a client with another matter we will, either by representing them ourselves or referring them to another skilled practitioner.
DP: Why did Wilner and O'Reilly decide to devote itself to immigration?
KSO: The easiest answer to that question is that we know immigration. My background as a former officer with the INS now the BCIS and my four plus years as the head of the family based immigration section of Reeves and Associates prepared me well. And, having lived in Hong Kong and dealing with cultures other than my own I have developed a great respect for immigrants and their contributions to the U.S. This, coupled with my partner's experience as the former supervising lawyer of one of the largest and oldest immigration firms in California, made immigration the natural choice.
DP: Since you brought it up tell us about your previous work experience.
KSO: My work in immigration actually started by being on the other side. I was an officer with the immigration service for almost 3 years.
DP: What kind of immigration officer?
KSO: A nice one, (smiling) I was an adjudications officer. My position required me to interview aliens applying for green cards based upon family and employment applications. I was also given the charge of reviewing and adjudicating applications for permission to travel known as advance paroles, work authorizations and applications for waivers.
DP: What do you mean by waivers?
KSO: Waivers are applications for forgiveness for previous immigration violations, such as using a false name on a visa or passport and are required when an alien is seeking entry. I was given the duty of reviewing and adjudicating those requests.
DP: What other duties did you have as an officer with the immigration service?
KSO: I also conducted marriage fraud interviews where couples thought to have suspect marriages were interviewed solely about their marriage. My job was to determine whether or not the marriage was valid under immigration law. I also did some overtime work with the Naturalization unit by interviewing those applying for U.S. citizenship.
DP: Did you find your time with the immigration service rewarding?
KSO: Very much so:
KSO: It laid the background for my education in immigration. When I was hired by the INS/BCIS I was sent to their training facility in Glynco, Georgia where I learned from the inside how the immigration service worked or in some instances did not work. This training sparked a desire in me to know as much as possible about the immigration process. The knowledge I gained from working for the immigration service continues to help me and my clients today. As an officer I was also able to witness and appreciate the real impact that decisions by the INS/BCIS had on aliens.
DP: What do you mean by impact?
KSO: Everyday I dealt with people who were separated from their family by great distance and for long periods of time. It was not unusual for me to meet someone who had not seen their family for over 10 or 15 years. Typically, this separation was caused by long delays at the immigration service. Delays that the immigrant's attorney should have resolved. Because of delays, separation from family the inability to work or attend school immigration problems cause deep emotional stress and impact an immigrants life. The desire to live in this country and the freedom that it affords comes for many people at a great price.
DP: How did this affect you and your decision to leave the immigration service?
KSO: I knew at the time I worked for the INS that I would eventually go into private practice. However, I think my departure was expedited because of the real need for an attorney who understands the system and what is needed to move cases forward. Because of my experience I knew I could fill that role. There are so many cases at the INS/BCIS just sitting there collecting dust and most attorneys just say to their clients that nothing can be done. This just isn't true: there is always something that can be done.
DP: Sounds like you're the answer man.
KSO: Well, that's nice of you to say. In all honesty my main role when I was the head of the family department at Reeves and Associates and even now with my own practice is to get what appears to be impossible or problematic done. At my former office, certain cases were specifically assigned to me because approval seemed unattainable. I took great pride in succeeding on such cases for our clients; cases that no one else could have handled. I still carry that pride today.
DP: Sounds like you were in charge to a certain extent. Why leave to start your own practice?
KSO: I really loved my time at Reeves and Associates and the knowledge and experience that I gained there were invaluable. But, there is something to be said for being in control of your own practice.
DP: Such as?
KSO: Such as enough time to address each client and their respective needs. On my own I am able to devote more attention and detail to my clients. In addition, I have four kids and a wife I want to spend time with. I now have that luxury. My kids think its great that I now have dinner with them. I love my work but ultimately I do it only for my family.
DP: You have a partner.
KSO: Yes I do. His name is Richard Wilner and he and I previously worked together and are the principles of Wilner & O'Reilly. He is the former vice president at Reeves and Associates and we are very lucky to have him as the chair of our litigation department. You should interview him next.
DP: I think we will. Attorney O'Reilly thank you for your time and we wish you success.
KSO: Thank you.