Do you ever wish you could be in two places at once? I do! I remember reading Harry Potter and in one of the books, Hermione had a fun tool that let her be in two places at the same time. In her case, she wanted to take two classes scheduled at the same time. She’d turn the watch hands back to the start of class and she could attend the second one. For me, it’s about needing to be at multiple interviews at USCIS at the same time.
When a client hires us, the contract generally includes my appearance at their interview in Atlanta. To me, the interview is the most important part of the case. Yes, the legal work has mostly been done, but things can get seriously derailed at an interview if the client presents new information or if an Immigration Officer doesn’t fully understand the case and the law behind it. However, if things go well at an interview, I may not say anything because everyone is doing a great job.
It’s always been a struggle when I have multiple interviews on the same day. I might have 9:00am and 10:00am interviews. In theory, that should be enough time for me to finish the first interview and make the second one since most interviews are done in 30 to 45 minutes. However, I think I’ve been called on time for an interview once in the last month – I usually end up waiting at least 30 minutes to get called back. So if the 9am officer is running late and the interviewing officer for the 10:00 appointment is right on time, what do my clients do? They don’t want to irritate the officer who will make the decision on their case by asking them to wait for me, but they have every right to have counsel present. If I tell the front desk that I have interviews close like that, they may jot it down. Or they may not. Or they’ll say they’ll remember and call the second officer and then there’s a shift change and the new front desk officer has no idea about my schedule. With over 30 interviewing officers in Atlanta, too, it’s highly unlikely that my two clients would be assigned to the same officer.
It’s even worse when the appointments are at exactly the same time. In that situation, I have to find a second attorney to help me and take one of the interviews. I’m the only attorney in the office and the only one here who can appear with our clients. Thankfully the immigration bar is collegial and kind and I have people I can trust to represent my clients when I cannot. Still, though, it’s unfair that I have to decide which client I get to go with and which client has someone new representing them – someone they haven’t built a relationship with.
Then there are days like Tuesday. I have NINE interviews scheduled – two at 8:00am, one at 9:05am, three at 11:15am, two at 12:50pm, and one at 1:55pm. I contacted USCIS as soon as I saw this and was told they couldn’t help me. I have a second attorney assisting me at 8:00am and 11:15am, thankfully. Three of the appointments are for one family and, in theory, they should have one appointment slot, so that will help if USCIS lets us all go together at 1:55pm. I’ll show up at 7:45am on Tuesday with a letter listing out the conflict and hope and pray that my clients have the same officer and that everything will go smoothly.
Why can’t we reschedule some of them? These are are special cases that are not often scheduled. If we asked for a new interview time, it could be another six months before we have a new date. No one wants to wait extra time for their green card. Could the clients go alone to their interview? Sure, they have that option, but each of these cases involve members of a vulnerable population who have been through a lot. They need the comfort and security of having counsel there, of knowing someone is looking out for them.
USCIS does very little (if anything) to accommodate the schedule that they created. I’m not asking them to assume every attorney will appear with their clients and to check for representation prior to scheduling an interview. I would just like USCIS to work with attorneys so that we can be with our clients. If we tell USCIS at least two weeks ahead of time about the conflict, that should be enough time to sort everything out. Maybe they already have taken care of my cases on Tuesday and it’ll be fine – but I won’t know that until the day is over.