Welcome to the Garfinkel Immigration attorney spotlight series, where we will conduct a bimonthly Q&A with one of the Firm’s lawyers. In this edition, we spoke with Senior Associate Attorney Catherine Magennis.
Catherine Magennis, a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law, was recently named to the Business North Carolina (BNC) 2021 Legal Elite list and previously served as the chair of the Mecklenburg County Bar Immigration and Nationality section.
How long have you practiced immigration law?
This year is 10 years!
What drew you to the immigration law field?
My aunt became an immigration attorney as a third career. She was a family law attorney, then teacher and finally an immigration attorney, and she encouraged me to enter the industry.
I have always been interested in other cultures. As a child, my best friend’s family was from India, and she shared her culture with me. I later made friends with the Hmong refugees in my hometown and attended their traditional new year’s celebrations.
My family also has a neat immigration story from Italy. My grandfather immigrated from Italy He did not speak English when he arrived here but, despite the challenges, earned his master’s degree here and later became the VP of his department in his company. It was my grandfather, above anyone else, who taught me the value of hard work, the importance of helping your neighbor, and the merit of immigration to the U.S.
What have you found most rewarding about working in immigration law?
I love the people that I work with and have met through immigration law. I have even enjoyed working with the USCIS officers, government ICE attorneys and ICE officers.
What do you consider your most significant professional accomplishment?
I am admitted to practice law in both NC and Connecticut. Note: I retired my Connecticut license and am here in North Carolina to stay!
However, while in Connecticut, I did almost exclusively removal defense work. Even though I was new to the state, I became highly involved in the bar because we needed all hands-on-deck to attend to the needs of thousands of Central American children that had arrived in the U.S. in 2014. I created a Special Immigration Juvenile Visa (SIJS) program and taught classes throughout the state. I represented children in both probate court and immigration court to help the children remain in the U.S. and safe from the violence they experienced in their home countries.
To this day, a decade after I started practicing as an immigration attorney, I see the primary purpose of my job as continuing to help aspiring Americans achieve their goals and to help keep or bring families together. My job is the best in the world!
What do you see as the most substantial challenges ahead in the complicated and ever-evolving environment around immigration law issues?
I believe that the biggest challenge facing my clients are the backlogs in processing cases and the backlog in scheduling appointments at the consulates and the length of time it takes for production of work authorization for our clients processing from within the U.S. I also believe that there continues to be a need for a permanent solution to help our DREAMERS or DACA holders.
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?
I love spending time with my daughter, Nelle, who is 3 years old, and going camping as a family.
What is your favorite movie or TV show? Why?
I love the Harry Potter movies but honestly, I love reading more than watching TV.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I can’t live without Diet Dr Pepper.