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From the Russkaya Reklama newspaper, May 3-9, 2002; issue #18 (472)

on "both sides of Barrier"

Life stories can be various. N. has lived in the United States for 7 years with the green card that she had won in DV lottery. It had happened that she committed small crime and was convicted for five months of imprisonment. Then, few years later, she left the United States for Moscow on personal matter. But on the way back, at the JFK Airport, she was detained and about to be imprisoned. But N. was released on temporary “parole” and was due back to the Department of Immigration for the trial within a few weeks. What was N’s next step? That is correct – she went to see an Immigration attorney, who was Tatiana Pahman.“We arrived together in the United States Immigration at 26 Federal Plaza”, - recalls Tatiana. – “The situation was bad for N. she had to be handcuffed and escorted to a prison because of her criminal record and re-entry to the United States”. N. was not a U.S. Citizen and therefore, she had immigration consequences re-entering the United States. I decided to fight Immigration System based on the appropriate law that could be used in this particular situation. As a result, I was able to avoid imprisonment subject to future Court determination. On the way out from the Department of Immigration, N. with tears of joy and happiness in her eyes, Dashed towards me with the words of gratitude. Honestly, in this moment I felt myself like a surgeon after successfully handled operation...”

What defines the success of an immigration attorney or to be exact, What is the formula, if any, for legal success? The answer is simple, knowledge and experience. But what is an experience, where is it comes from? Does it only comes from the number of "cases" the attorney has handled or may be from the variety of situations this particular lawyer has faced in his practice? How lawyers differ from one another? Not against the truth I shall say, Tatiana Pahman possesses an unique experience, passing all steps of the professional growth being figuratively on both sides of "barrier." From the further tale it will become clear what I mean.

Tatiana immigrated to the United States 13 years ago with her family. She graduated from the Kharkov Law School, profession was elected not without influence of her mother who was also an attorney in the former Soviet Union. From the beginning, Tatiana started working in the United States in the area of law closed to her profession. Managing to “get” English quick and mastering computer, Tanya got job in the large law firm. There were 21 competitors for this position but she was selected. Then, she worked for HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). Tanya was the first Russian-speaking employee who got an Immigration Counselor position.

“That was very interesting and responsible work , I helped many people who wanted to stay in the United States not to return to the former Soviet Union full of inner-ethnic conflicts. In my big office on Broadway I assisted HIAS’ clients in applying for asylum. I also represented clients at the Immigration Asylum interviews and solved the other Immigration matters. Thousand of clients got immigration status with my help and 70% granted asylum.

Tatiana Pahman graduated from the Fordham University School of Law with Honors. Also, what is important that she passed the bar exam and got so-called the official license to practice law in the United States. That fact alone can definitely be count as a considerable victory for the recent immigrant. Ever since, Tanya never stopped in her achievements because of her nature and knowledge, every step she made was an onward march. Her next goal was to become an Asylum Officer at the Immigration and Naturalization Department. Wherein Mrs. Pahman and her colleagues went to defend the interests of HIAS’ clients. (Remember, I mentioned both sides of barrier”, this side and that side?)

In order to get this position, Tanya’s background was checked for six months, not worse than KGB. Even neighbors were interviewed on the issues of Tatiana’s potential drinking and or drug problems, if any. Only then, when everything was O.K. Tatiana got her new position-Asylum Officer at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Department. Tatiana listened to the stories of the political asylum applicants and their lawyers and made decisions on their cases. Naturally, she perfectly knew the situation in the countries of the former Soviet Union and the other countries in the world by constantly keeping check on occurring changes. “Whole world came to my office”, -says Mrs. Pahman, and this was true without any exaggeration. Her clients were people from all over the world: Republics of the former Soviet Union, Africa, China, Yugoslavia and other countries…

Tatiana has also worked in immigration prison for six months. Unlike majority of her own colleagues she knows these institutions not on the surface but from inside out. Really, is that important for immigration attorney? Also, as an Asylum Officer, Tatiana was sent on a business trip to the former Soviet Union, Moscow. There, for three months she was working at American Embassy as s refugee interviewer.

“I never thought that I would return to Russia in such position. I stayed at “National” hotel that over viewed Kremlin. I saw the First May demonstration … All the time I caught myself on thoughts that this occurs not to me… As to my direct work, I confess, I was struck, insofar that standard of getting refugee status was much easier to meet than one for asylum in the United States. –Faced and with purely Russian “focus” where at near by train station called “Barricade”, not far from the American Embassy, was possible to buy any documents from false birth certificates, passports to military tickets and so on. In Embassy we x- rayed the documents of the applicants and hardly found fraud, sent such “refugee” back home.

Today, Tatiana Pahman practices as immigration attorney. I think, in light of the stated above excessive to speak of the valuable experience and knowledge that she possesses. Based on the foregoing, how many more attorneys in New York, so you know that possess the same service record? She really can help and helps people on a daily basis. Being on side of the client, she beautifully knows all reefs, after all not yet so long ago she was on the other side of the so called barrier herself and therefore, perfectly aware how to represent her client in the best way. Whether going for citizenship interview with the elderly people asking for waiver or presenting a political asylum case, it is extremely important not to give the bureaucracy of this organization even a slightest ground for nags.

What kind of cases do you handle most often?- “Naturally, Immigration Law. Also Real Estate, Business, Matrimonial and Bankruptcy.

Do you find that presently, after tragedy on September 11, load of immigration cases have sized ? Yes absolutely, it is became more difficult to arrive in the USA, and therefore much more complicated to get the so wanted statuses...
The change of this situation has impact on us, attorneys, as well. Our role in such term increases. The Choice of the correct and experienced attorney – in many aspects makes the work done. The People must well know which attorney to hire to properly handle their legal immigration matters.

What besides the license to practice law given to the particular lawyer can distinguish one attorney from another? It is not a secret that under the name of immigration "lawyers” can be found many so-called paralegal services that have no idea of how to handle more sensitive and complicated cases. As a result, denials, disappointments and scandals occurs on many occasions. It looks like today tourist and business visas to come to the United State will be granted only for 30 days. Due to that fact people who come to America as visitors and decided to stay permanently need immediately consult an attorney. They should find out what can be done and which petitions have to be filed and not be defrauded by so-called immigration “experts”.
Moreover, in this case, the chances of a successful outcome correlate with help of experienced attorney who knows how to avoid mistakes.

Would you please give some specific examples from your personal practice and experience ? The Russian citizens from Таshkent came to New York with visitor status and even though their passports and visas were in order, they were taking into custody at the airport under suspicion that they could violate their visitor status by seeking employment. The fact that they were here before for a year and never violated law made no difference. Immediately, from prison, they contacted me I was able to help.
Another person, citizen of West Ukraine, while in immigration prison, wanted to get asylum based on religion. I also handled his case and was able to win, client was released.
Over the years of practice I handled cases of clients from Albania, Poland and other parts of the world.
For your information, you do not have to be Jewish to receive political asylum in the United States. Russians from the Central Asia, Baltic States, Belarus and persecuted citizens of other countries can count on satisfactory conclusion of their cases if their attorneys intelligent, experienced and know what they doing.
Just to remind you, the court procedure is very challenging and to win, it is necessary to know all cones and prones of the process. I, for instance, before presenting my case in court, request expert opinion on a particular situation. Depending on which part of the world my client came from I gather all the news and supporting evidence. Among the people who provide this information to me is a professor of Columbia University who is an expert on Uzbekistan, another professor specializes in Baltic Republic and so on. It is very important to understand which information to use in any particular situation and of course education, experience and knowledge are also very useful. Graduating from Fordham University I did my “master theses” on immigration as well. The serious problems appeared after September 11 for so- called illegal immigrants, it is became more difficult for them to stay in America with expired visas. The immigration department literally “hunting” them and sending them back to where they came from. Basically, this concerns people working without employment authorization in restaurants, taxi and car services. They deeply in need for consultation of the immigration attorney. Due to that fact my work load have increased dramatically.

When it was time to say goodbye to Tatiana Pahman, I glanced at her office. As it is accepted in America, walls were covered with her diplomas. Not at all for the sake of bagging's – when you come to the office for the first time you can immediately understand, who you are dealing with. Graduate of the Fordham University and Academy of Immigration Officers, Member of American and New York Association of Attorneys, Political Asylum Officer and all this one person - Tatiana Pahman.

D. Gai