Attorney helps immigrants find a new life in the States



by Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Business entries and visas are increasingly difficult to get in today’s economy – a major mistake for this country, according to immigration attorney Justin Casagrande, a senior member and principal in Antone, Casagrande & Adwers in Farmington Hills.

“This, in my opinion, only makes sense if you think these applicants will not contribute to society once here, but will be a drain on it,” he says. “However, I tend to believe that most people have something unique to contribute and that most of these business applicants would likely be contributors, job creators, and otherwise assets to the U.S.

“Limiting the entry of the most educated and talented people in the world is a shortsighted view of the contributions that people can make and ignores the economics of the situation. Protecting some jobs now by closing the door to the most talented people in the world makes no sense.”

Although he originally planned to be an engineer, after getting a taste of history and political science at the University of Michigan, Casagrande dropped out of engineering school and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from U-M with studies in organizational behavior, multi-national business, and international relations.

“I’ve always been very interested in the world, and in politics and history. Even when I was young, I was a bit of a political and history ‘junkie,’” he says.

Professional work in this field felt like a natural continuation of his interests. At the University of Pittsburgh School of Law he focused on international law and business/corporate concerns, and after graduating in 1997, joined immigration attorney Peter Antone.

He has worked in the immigration law field ever since, a niche specialty that provides an opportunity to apply his interest in international history and cultures to real world current events, and meeting and interacting with people from all over the world provides insight into international issues.

“Immigration law allows me to meet with people from all over the planet, which I find very interesting,” he says. “It’s also an area of the law where you directly get to try and help people. Whether a case is business related, family related, or asylum, there’s often the underlying desire to come to the U.S. Whatever problems we may have in this country, it’s nice to be continually reminded that we have many advantages as well.”

A member of the Michigan and Federal Bars, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and other immigration-related organizations, Casagrande focuses his practice on employment, family and asylum visas, including representation of clients in removal proceedings, giving him a full view of the interactions between family and employment visas.

His work on complex matters in business immigration includes formation of new businesses, non- immigrant and immigrant visa filings, and all matters relating to Labor Certification and PERM (Program Electronic Review Management), intended to reduce labor certification times to under 60 days. He also has represented clients with complex family-based claims to status, including waiver issues, in the U.S. with U.S. Citizen & Immigration Services, immigration courts, federal courts, and at embassies throughout the world.

Aliens often have few or limited rights, in comparison to U.S. citizens – a cautionary tale, he says. He finds the treatment of individuals with limited rights shines an interesting light on the nature of government itself.

“The methods used by the government in enforcing the immigration laws are instructive on how U.S. citizens would be treated without some of the constitutional protections we take for granted,” Casagrande says.

One of the major challenges in immigration is the uneven nature of decisions and administration in business settings. “Immigration law is highly politicized and enforcement can and does change frequently, especially in areas where the government has discretion in enforcement,” he says.

In a recent case, a visa application filed by another attorney was denied outright for a minor problem even though the applicant was clearly qualified for the position of principal in a religious school; Immigration questioned whether this was a religious occupation.

Casagrande’s firm filed an appeal with the immigration service, which was approved over a year later.

“In the meantime, both the employer and employee were in limbo, and neither had any idea whether she would be able to stay, or whether the employer would be able to continue,” he says.

Born in New York, Casagrande has called the Detroit area home since his childhood on the east side of the city. Other than law school, he has lived in Michigan ever since, living in nearly every part of the metro area at various points in his life.

“I enjoy living here, it’s an international city drawing people from all over the world, which fits my interests,” he says.

Married with 7-year-old twin sons and a 3-year-old daughter who are all active in school and sports, Casagrande enjoys coaching some of the sports teams. In addition to spending time with his family, he is an avid reader, especially about historical subjects, and has recently taken up woodworking/carpentry.