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 Nam Douglass.
Nam Douglass, a graduate of the Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University, is certified as a Specialist in Immigration Law by the North Carolina State Bar, the highest level of specialization attainable in the state. She was recently recognized in the 2022 Business North Carolina Legal Elite list.
How long have you practiced immigration law?
I have practiced immigration law since 2013. Before that, I practiced family law for about a year and a half.
Law is my second career. Prior to going to law school, I worked for several statewide nonprofit organizations. Their work focused on community economic development efforts, which included everything from eco and agri tourism to small business development, downtown revitalization and the economic impact of early childhood education.
What drew you to the immigration law field?
My career prior to law school involved a lot of advocacy and policy work and that was what drew me to go to law school – so that I could work more directly to impact the laws and policies that really affected the lives of everyday people in our communities. Immigration is an area of law that affords opportunity to both engage in policy advocacy as well as impact the daily lives of others.
Additionally, coming from an immigrant family, there was a personal connection, as well. Aside from my maternal grandparents coming through Ellis Island, my mother served in the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa, where she met my dad. His family was from Syria, but he had been born and raised in Senegal. They got married and I was born in Dakar, Senegal. They moved back to the U.S. when I was a couple of months old. My dad has been a naturalized citizen for many years.
I have a unique birth record, having one birth certificate in Arabic, one in French (the “official language” of Senegal at the time), and one from the U.S. State Department noting the birth of a U.S. citizen abroad.
What have you found most rewarding about working in immigration law?
There is always something new to learn about immigration law and, while the changes can be frustrating, it always keeps you engaged. There is also the opportunity to work and meet people from across the world and see how their lives are impacted by the work that we do on a daily basis.
The immigration bar also has a sense of community that I believe is unique from other areas of law. There is a common purpose that allows sharing of information and encourages learning.
What do you consider your most significant professional accomplishment?
Aside from passing the immigration specialist exam, my most significant professional accomplishment was overcoming a visa fraud charge to win a Trafficking (T) visa case for a mom to three beautiful little girls.
What do you see as the most substantial challenges ahead in the complicated and ever-evolving environment around immigration law issues?
Right now, our political system is facing significant challenges, and people have forgotten the cooperative ideals that are at the core of our democracy. Currently, there are too many people labeling immigrants as “them” rather than part of “us,” making it hard to achieve the comprehensive changes our immigration system needs. So, we must work together and be creative in finding ways to navigate within the current laws.
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?
I love to be outside – hike, walk, explore. Nature grounds me and reminds me to pick my head up and see the bigger picture.
What is your favorite movie or TV show? Why?
As a true child of the 80’s, among my favorite movies are Say Anything and The Princess Bride.
My favorite TV show of all time is the West Wing. Don’t we all want there to be a President Bartlett?
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I have a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.