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Article in Evanston Express (now nonexistent), Volume 1 Issue 14 ~

August 26-September 1, 2001

Emily Love: Lawyer with an International Mission Evanston Attorney Advocates for Immigrants

By Melanie Amin

Emily Love’s Evanston law office probably wouldn’t fit into a crime-busting episode of TV’s “Law & Order.” Instead of criminal trials, Love’s work focuses on the complexities of immigration law, and her clients come to her deeply concerned about maintaining legal status so they can continue to work and prosper in the United States.

Immigration reform continues to be a hotly debated topic, with government officials and the public often at odds about what changes would constitute real progress. With Mexico and the United States now moving toward pursuing the specifics of a temporary worker program that would allow some currently undocumented immigrants to legalize their status, immigration seems destined to remain in the national spotlight.

The Road to Immigration

“I went to Washington to do I don’t know what – to save the world,” says Love of her postgraduate journey to Washington, D.C. After majoring in Latin American studies at Haverford College, Love explored her career options through internships in public policy and international affairs. And before even deciding to attend law school, she found herself working in the U.S. Senate. Love’s first break was landing a press assistant job with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), which then led her in 1986 to become deputy press secretary for Brock Adams, a Democratic senator from Washington state.

It was during her stint as deputy press secretary that Love began volunteering with a Hispanic legal services agency. She had been searching for a way to utilize her fluency in Spanish, a skill she picked up while spending her junior year abroad in Mexico. The volunteer work involved helping register people for the 1986 legalization program (known as amnesty), which allowed immigrants to gain work authorization and eventual permanent residency.

“It was fascinating and very rewarding,” says Love of the challenges of gathering documentation for clients applying for the amnesty.

Because the immigrants had often gone to great lengths to cover proof of their existence, Love found creativity to be a guiding force in her efforts. Trying to establish a paper trail to prove that people had indeed lived in the United States involved poring over hospital records, money wired to relatives abroad – anything that might prove an immigrant’s residency.

“I would go along to translate in a lot of cases,” Love recalls, remembering the many occasions she accompanied agency clients to interview for employment authorization cards – the first step in legalization. On the rewards of seeing those clients enjoy the benefits of that amnesty, she says it was wonderful “to see people say ˜You mean they accepted my application? You mean I can work?”

Feeling excited and passionate about the plight of immigrants, Love, who is originally from Glencoe, decided to return home. She had grown tired of D.C., and was pleased to land a job in 1989 as a public information coordinator for the Chicago Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Protection. And after deciding to move on to law school, immigration continued to remain Love’s calling. After completing her law degree in 1993, she began working at an immigration law firm in downtown Chicago.

Branching Out

But Love wanted more control of her schedule as her family grew, and she began testing the waters for developing her own practice. “At the time, it was exactly what I was looking for and it gave me the confidence that I could really go out on my own,” she says of the part-time position she took at a Chicago law firm after the birth of her first child in 1997. Love found the firm supportive of her goal of launching her own immigration practice, and they allowed her to use their office as a home base for her private work. But with the birth of her second child in 1999, Love decided she had built up enough of a client base to support her own practice.

After she and husband Christopher Turley, an architect who runs his own firm, outgrew working out of their Highland Park home, they began searching for office space. They stumbled upon a workplace utopia when they located adjoining office suites on Madison Street in Evanston. Located close to the “L” for Love’s clients, the work environment has allowed both Love and Turley the flexibility they need to balance the demands of work with an active family life.

Challenges and Rewards

“I have a general, full-service immigration law practice,” says Love. “It runs the spectrum from family-based to employment-based immigration, which can include immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, which are temporary visas for professionals or students.” Love also does deportation defense work, naturalization and some asylum cases.

“I think the biggest thing is economics – are they going to be able to get a better life for their families?” says Love of the worries that many of her clients have about the future in a new country. “Immigrants come here because they’re looking for an opportunity to better their lives. They come from conditions that are not as favorable as those in the United States, particularly economically.”

“In a lot of cases they’re doing the work that Americans find unpleasant and won’t do,” she notes. “And I can tell you that in many of Chicago’s restaurants, no matter what ethnicity, the cooks are Mexican. That’s what’s driving the service economy.”

“They pay taxes on their earnings, they are a part of the service economy and they’re being exploited in a lot of cases,” she adds, pointing out that many immigrants without legal status live in fear that an unscrupulous employer may threaten to report them to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Helping her clients remains a source of great satisfaction for Love. A few years ago, she worked an asylum case involving an 18-year-old Muslim man who had fled to Chicago from Montenegro, a part of Yugoslavia. The man had been drafted to the Yugoslavian army, but had deserted when he feared that the army would be attacking Muslim areas. When the man left Yugoslavia, he had a valid passport but had purchased a fake visa. Immigration officials at O’Hare detected the fake visa, and he was held in custody while awaiting a deportation hearing.

“I thought I was going to lose,” says Love of the case, who thought the judge would find that her client was lacking evidence to substantiate his need for refugee status. But during the trial, the client’s cousin, a student at DePaul University, insisted that Love accompany her to track down a law professor she hoped could help them. The two literally camped out at the professor’s office in order to meet with him.

The expert turned out to be Nobel Peace Prize nominee M. Cherif Bassiouni, a DePaul University College of Law professor who has been actively involved in investigating human rights violations in the former Yugoslavia. Bassiouni helped Love obtain documentation substantiating her client’s claim that he could be forced to commit violence against his own people had he remained there. The evidence detailed attacks on Muslim regions in the specific areas that Love’s client had mentioned to the immigration judge and built a strong case for her client’s need for political asylum.

She was thrilled when the judge ruled in her client’s favor, and says that the man is now close to becoming a U.S. citizen. “This was a very meaningful case for me,” Love says. “My client was very young and fleeing a dangerous situation. He risked a lot to get here, but it was worth it.”

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