Will Miller served as a commercial and civil litigation attorney for seven years before moving to immigration law. He was inspired to do this after a soul-seeking trip to Argentina, which also enabled him to realize his dream of living abroad. While he was there, he fell in love with the language and the people. When he returned to Georgia, he wanted to keep in touch. He began volunteering with the Latin American Association and eventually accepted a position with the Legal Department of the Catholic Immigration Charity. Miller says he found great importance in the work, and the rest is history. Miller joined the Georgia State Law Immigration Clinic as a solicitor earlier this spring and has already won a client’s release from custody. Here he talks about what it’s like to practice immigration law and what he wants to achieve in the state of Georgia.
What are the most common scenarios you have encountered as an immigration lawyer?
Atlanta has a lot of people from the Northern Triangle, which consists of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and they are fleeing gang persecution. At this point, the gangs are a “shadow state” and even our own State Department reports that there are areas in these countries that are entirely gang run. There is also a lot of institutional misogyny and there is not much redress for gender-based violence for domestic violence survivors.
Are there any cases that you have had over the years?
When I was working at Catholic charities, we were working on 100-150 cases at a time, and people said that they don’t even take asylum cases because they are simply rejected. I’m currently working on this one case that I’ve been working on since 2014. This is a Central American domestic violence survivor and is being appealed for the second time. I got to know this woman and her children. I remember when their children were tiny and crying in the courtroom; Now they have grown up and speak perfect English. It was a privilege, but it’s also very sad because their living conditions are so different from mine.
How do you find work-life balance?
It can be pretty overwhelming. There is an isolationist legal culture. You don’t let people know that you are having problems or are unsure, or that dealing with a customer is transferring trauma to you. The way I deal with it develops close relationships with my colleagues in the bar because it can be difficult to talk about these things with someone who doesn’t do the same. We have a tightly knit immigration bar here in Atlanta. It can be difficult, especially lately.
Why did you come to the College of Law?
The experience in the clinic is important for law students because when I graduated from law school, I had no idea how to become a lawyer because I didn’t have a clinic. I have something to offer because I’ve been doing this for a while. I want to be able to convey something to the student who is like me and has to find the area that inspires him.
The clinic has recently made advances for its clients. Tell me about it.
This is a woman with mental health problems who was detained at the Irwin County Detention Center from May 2019 until her release on January 30. The clinic filed a motion to terminate the trial, arguing that there was no protection available to make the trial fair to their mental incompetence. After months of discussion, ICE released our customer from custody. She is still in the relocation process, but she has deteriorated in detention and she has a family here in Atlanta who look after her. That way it’s a win.
Interview by Kelundra Smith