Firsthand experience: Law graduate clerked for ICE in Detroit


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

A native of Bishkek, the capital and largest city of Kyrgyzstan, Danil Vishniakov came to the U.S. at the age of 8, when his family immigrated to Seattle immediately after 9/11. His experiences left him with a passion for studying immigration law in the U.S.

“Growing up in a community of immigrants, I often heard stories of a community member ordered removed from the United States or granted legal status or protection by the United States. Many times, these stories were cloaked in passionate statements of ‘injustice’ or ‘luck,” he says. “Hearing someone ‘deserving’ legal status or protection was rare. It was rare because no one understood the immigration system.

“I find work in immigration law rewarding because, as a first-generation immigrant, I’m able to bring objective knowledge into my family and community.”   

Vishniakov recently graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, where he was the Executive Editor of Inside Articles of Law Review and a member of the Federalist Society. He enjoyed his three years, and says he particularly appreciated the school’s patience and belief in the students.

A desire to solve problems drew him to study the law.

“Eventually, I realized that law is an inseparable ingredient to the correct solution to a majority of the problems I encountered,” he says.

At the end of his 1L year, Vishniakov clerked at the Detroit Land Bank Authority, where he gained extensive knowledge of the Michigan’s real property law; and by reviewing properties’ legal documents, grew more intimate with Detroit’s history.

“Before my move to Detroit, I would hear terrible depictions of Detroit,” he says. “My goal was to understand Detroit in its purity and rawness.”

A concurrent research internship at the Michigan Court of Appeals in Detroit taught him to write succinctly and accurately.

“Moreover, I understood how impactful a lawyer’s work can be, whether it’s a mistake or a victory,” he says.

For the first four months of 2018 he interned at the Executive Office for Immigration Review in Detroit, then spent the summer with the same organization as part of the U.S. Justice Department’s Summer Law Internship Program (SLIP), this time in Eloy, Ariz., a town situated between Phoenix and Tucson.    

The two immigration courts varied drastically, he notes, adding that he worked on primarily non-detained cases in Detroit, and on detained cases in Eloy.   

“Every respondent had a different story to tell. Our goal was to execute the law uniformly. In sum, I enjoyed preserving the Justice Department’s goal in light of the many different stories we heard.”   

Vishniakov spent his 3L year clerking in the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor for the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) in Detroit.

“Beyond learning the prosecutorial techniques in immigration law, I enjoyed observing how an immigration case is created,” he says.

Fluent in English, German and Russian, his career goal is to ultimately bridge his legal and linguistic skills to serve the U.S. government.

“In the future, I’d like to work for the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs,” he says.   

An alumnus of Western Washington University with a degree in German and International Relations & Affairs, Vishniakov knew he wanted to study international relations after immigrating to the U.S.

“By studying German, I sought to craft a North American-European-Asian relations chain,” he says. “I was curious as to the continents’ interplay.”

He has fond memories of his senior year of high school spent in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program (CBYX), a program at the U.S. Department of State. During his year as a “young ambassador” in Munich, he attended a Gymnasium, learned German, and ultimately represented the goals of the State Department—“A life-changing year for me,” he says.