Attorney shares immigration legal expertise with UDM law students

by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Scott Cooper was drawn to the law in the 1970s, while an undergrad at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

“I was a political science major in the living and breathing laboratory which was Chicago during the days of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s Democratic machine,” he says. “Enough of the politicians in Chicago were in legal trouble to interest me in the legal process.”

Cooper, who earned his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law, is a partner and managing attorney in the Michigan offices of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, an immigration law firm with 41 offices in 15 countries. Since 2008 he has shared his expertise as an adjunct professor in the Law Firm Program at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

“I enjoy working with law students who don’t hesitate to challenge you at every turn,” he says. “The students at UDM are much like those with whom I attended law school – practical, typically working while going to school, intellectually and street smart – and they reflect the diversity which is Detroit.”

The UDM Law Firm Program is a nationally recognized practical series of courses building off a core commercial transaction where students are treated in many respects like junior associates.

“While I don’t have them keep time, they have to tackle the type of every day employment-based immigration problems which they will encounter in the field,” says Cooper, who also teaches for the Michigan Institute for Continuing Legal Education, is a program chair for the Michigan ICLE, and is a trainer for the American Society of Employers.
His first adjunct appointment was at his alma mater, teaching employment-based immigration law practice. Over the years, Immigration Law has become far more specialized and challenging.

“Many large firms aren’t serious about their immigration practices and don’t devote the resources it requires,” Cooper says. “The majority of practitioners are small or solo firms and competition is quite significant. However, hanging a shingle and going solo in immigration law is probably more feasible than in a general practice or many other specialties that require a greater investment and support. Remaining current requires a real commitment or your clients will suffer.”

According to Cooper, the failure to effect comprehensive immigration reform, including reform of the legal immigration system especially, is placing this country at competitive risk in the world economy.

“Historically, immigrants to the U.S. are scapegoated in bad economic times and the present is no exception,” he says. “Only now, immigration restrictionists are much better organized and funded and are increasingly successful at convincing the U.S. public that immigrants are bad for the country. The lies and distortions they repeat are refuted by study after study which show how immigrants, especially highly skilled ones, create jobs, have lower crime statistics than natives, and do not add disproportionately to public costs. Nonetheless, the Congress finds fixing immigration a radioactive topic which evokes highly emotional, and often irrational, responses.

“I can tell you unequivocally that I’ve seen the long term benefit to the country over the more than 33 years of my practice in the field. You don’t have to believe me. Look at the latest studies from the Kaufman Foundation to see how we’re losing the talent race to other countries because of immigration policies created as far back as 1953. A 1953 Chevy may be a classic, but a 1953 immigration law is a liability.”

Cooper has dealt with many interesting people and cases – from CEOs to Nobel Prize winners, athletes and entertainers, entrepreneurs and investors. A couple of fun ones stand out – such as the two 6-month-old identical twin girls, Lisa and Michelle Blair, who served in the role of baby Mary Bennington in the 1987 movie Three Men and a Baby.
“We were able to convince the former INS that the babies should be permitted entry as aliens of exceptional ability to perform in the movie based on the broad search conducted by the movie production company, their identical characteristics, and that they would remain so for only a couple of months for purposes of the film,” he says. “More recently, we brought in a world-renowned sand artist from Ukraine to perform at New York Auto Show as an alien of extraordinary ability.”

Cooper’s long and satisfying career began as associate dean with the University of Illinois, where his responsibilities included international student and scholar visa program responsibilities and he engaged in a Fulbright in international educational exchange administration.

He began a private practice in 1979 while still in academia, and joined Fragomen in 1986.

“Our broad client base – from major corporate clients, to higher ed and research, to foundations and not-for-profits, and individuals – is varied and fascinating involving virtually every culture,” he says. “The specialty touches on fundamental rights, business and family law, tax and other areas so is quite broad in scope.”

An author and editor of publications and a commentator and media resource on immigration issues, Cooper has served as the Michigan Chapter Chair on the national Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association; and as Chair of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee of the Chicago Bar Association.

In his leisure time, Cooper serves on several nonprofit organization and professional boards, international family service groups, and enjoys playing bass guitar. He and wife Jumana have a daughter, Anne, who began attending her father’s law school alma mater this year.

The native of the Windy City now lives in Bloomfield Hills. “But I like to tell people I live in Detroit,” he says. “Michigan is the California of the Midwest.”