Doug Thie, an immigration attorney with Antone, Casagrande & Adwers in Farmington Hills, is fluent in spoken and written Spanish and has spent extensive time in Mexico and South America, including visiting Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia.
‘Desire to help’ fuels lawyer’s passion for immigration law
By Sheila Pursglove
One of attorney Doug Thie’s first cases highlighted an injustice of the immigration system: mandatory detention of many immigrants in prisons, when they are most often neither a flight risk nor a threat to society.
Immigration officials deemed a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident in his 60s deportable because of a 10-day jail term years ago for a minor infraction - making him ineligible for bond when immigration authorities arrested him. Thie and his colleagues at the Farmington Hills immigration law firm of Antone, Casagrande & Adwers successfully argued the crime did not warrant deportation, and the man was permitted to remain in the U.S. with his family.
“Ultimately, though, our client was imprisoned for more than 100 days during his immigration case, more than 10 times the amount of time he served for his criminal conviction,” Thie says.
Navigating the labyrinth of immigration laws is never an easy task, he notes.
“Working in immigration law requires obsessive attention to detail and a lot of hard work — but seeing that hard work pay off and the way it changes a client’s life is extremely rewarding,” Thie says.
His work at Antone, Casagrande and Adwers continues to fuel Thie’s passion for his chosen niche.
“Unlike many other areas, immigration law gives me the opportunity to work with clients ranging from teen-agers brought to the U.S. as children and facing deportation, to aspiring entrepreneurs, to executives of Fortune 500 companies.”
Every day brings new challenges and nothing is routine in this complex field. Thie’s favorite quote is from Alanis-Bustamante v. Reno, an 11th Circuit case where the court states: “It would seem that should be a simple issue with a clear answer, but this is immigration law where the issues are seldom simple and the answers are far from clear.”
For some clients, approval of a visa application is the culmination of years of hard work — from high school to college to excelling in their field abroad and receiving a job offer in the U.S. For others, the termination of removal proceedings means a second chance and continued life in the U.S.
One client had stayed in the U.S. the maximum amount of time permitted in H-1B status, and switched to Trade NAFTA (TN) status; then wanted to switch back to H-1B status as he had an approved I-140 application — the first step in the employment-based green card process.
A difficult case due to the client’s decade-long immigration history and numerous applications, ultimately his visa application was approved — to the relief of both the client and his employer, who told Thie that of his more than 100 employees, this man was the only one they could not afford to lose.
“The case highlighted for me how difficult U.S. immigration laws make it for anyone to come to the U.S. permanently, even if they’re among the most successful in their field and will undoubtedly contribute greatly — or are already contributing — to our nation,” Thie says.
Fluent in spoken and written Spanish — a big boon in his line of work — Thie was introduced to the language at Olympic High School in Charlotte, N.C., with its diverse student body, large Spanish-speaking population, and high school friends from Mexico, Central America, and South America.
He earned a degree in Spanish from Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. After the initial frustration of trying to become proficient in another language, Thie came to love Spanish and the doors that opened for communicating with other people.
“I knew was on the right path when my freshman roommate told me I was talking in my sleep in Spanish,” he says.
Throughout college, he read an extensive amount of literature by Spanish-speaking authors, with immigration a common topic. He also volunteered at local organizations serving the Hispanic immigrant community, and realized that for millions in the U.S., immigration status is the greatest impediment to achieving their dreams.
“We’ve always been a nation of immigrants, and I strongly believe they’re essential to our nation’s continued economic and cultural vitality,” he says.
Driven by his desire to help immigrants, Thie focused on immigration law and international law at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill, graduating with honors.
Vice President of the Immigration Law Association at UNC, he participated in the Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic, and spoke as a panelist at the 2012 Chapel Hill Human Rights Conference on immigrant human rights issues. He also served as an Articles Editor for the North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation and received the Weisburd Award for exceptional leadership and commitment to the Journal.
Under immigration law, victims of certain crimes who help government authorities in the prosecution of those crimes, are eligible for visas, provided they meet a number of requirements.
At the UNC Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic, a victim of 20 years of domestic violence ultimately testified against her husband in the case that led to his conviction for attempted murder. According to Thie, it was emotionally challenging to prepare the application, spending countless hours interviewing the client and drafting a statement detailing her decades of abuse.
“But it was also extremely rewarding to know the approval of the application would mean legal status and all the benefits that legal status entails for this woman and her child.”
A resident of the Carolinas for 20 years, Thie now makes his home in Birmingham, where he and his wife enjoy traveling at every opportunity. His love of travel includes six months during college when he lived with a host family in Chile and was a student at a local university, studying Peruvian immigration to Chile and its similarities to Mexican immigration to the U.S. In addition to traveling around Chile, he visited Buenos Aires and Mendoza in Argentina and backpacked in Patagonia. On another trip, sponsored by Duke University, he visited Mexico City, Chilpancingo, Huitzapula, and Acapulco to learn how Americans can better welcome Mexican-Americans into U.S. communities.
A cross-country runner in high school, Thie enjoys running whenever his schedule permits.
“I often run the streets of my neighborhood in the morning before heading to the office,” he says. “On the weekends I enjoy spending as much time as possible outdoors and hiking at state and local parks.”