Blog : Immigration Practice

Minette Kwok Honored by SF Supervisor Norman Yee as Part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Minette Kwok Honored by SF Supervisor Norman Yee as Part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee today recognized firm partner Minette Kwok as a District 7 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month honoree for her leadership advocating for immigrant families and mentoring the next generation of Asian American leaders.

PHOTO: San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee (left) and Minette Kwok at the May 8 recognition ceremony at San Francisco City Hall for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Photo courtesy of Gerry Okimoto.

Supervisor Yee: “I am proud to honor nationally-recognized immigration attorney, Minette Kwok, partner at the Minami Tamaki LLP firm. For over 25 years, she has advocated on behalf of immigrants seeking to work and contribute to our country. Recently she helped win a state Supreme Court case allowing undocumented immigrants to be licensed as attorneys. On Jan 1, 2018 when Gov. Brown signed a bill into law, California became the first state in the country to license undocumented immigrants as attorneys. Let’s keep fighting for our immigrant communities and standing in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

Congratulations to Minette on this well-deserved recognition!

Impact of A Government Shutdown on U.S. Immigration

Impact of A Government Shutdown on U.S. Immigration

There is a likelihood that the federal government will shut down at midnight if Congress cannot pass a spending bill to fund the government.

In preparation for a possible government shut down, you should anticipate slowdown in visa transfers as well as the greencard PERM process.

All fee-based government functions will continue to operate, as well as “essential” personnel.

We understand that the following immigration-related agencies will be impacted in the following manner:

USCIS: USCIS is a fee-funded agency with the exception of E-Verify, so if the government shuts down, only E-Verify shuts down. Otherwise, it’s business as usual.

DOS: Visa and passport operations are fee-funded and should not be impacted by a lapse in appropriations, but operating status and funding will need to be monitored closely. If visa operations are affected, consular posts will generally only handle diplomatic visas and “life or death” emergencies.

CBP: Inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered “essential.” Ports of entry will be open; however, processing of applications filed at the border may be impacted.

ICE: ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue, and ICE attorneys will typically focus on the detained docket during a shutdown. The ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) offices are unaffected since SEVP is funded by fees.

EOIR: EOIR’s detained docket is typically considered an essential function and would therefore continue to operate. During the 2013 shutdown, EOIR continued to accept court filings, even in non-detained cases.

DOL: The OFLC would cease processing all applications in the event of a government shutdown, and personnel would not be available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries. OFLC’s web-based systems, iCERT and PERM, would be inaccessible, and BALCA dockets will be placed on hold.

CIS Ombudsman: The DHS Office of the CIS Ombudsman would close and would not accept any inquiries through its online case intake system.

Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Minette A. Kwok leads our immigration and nationality law practice.

Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2017

Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2017

TOP PHOTO: (back row) Partner Dale Minami (second from left) with the Hon. Holly J. Fujie (left), Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge; Pankit Doshi (second from right), incoming NAPABA national president; Ameek Sidhu (right); (front row) David Louie (left), former Attorney General for the State of Hawai’i; Joan Haratani (middle), the 2006 president of the Bar Association of San Francisco; and Michelle Park Chiu (right), AABA Bay Area board member (photo courtesy of AABA).


Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys Dale Minami, Sean Tamura-Sato, Suhi Koizumi, Lisa P. Mak, and Seema Bhatt recently attended the annual National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) National Convention in Washington, D.C.  The Convention had a record-breaking turnout of over 2,000 Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law students, and elected officials from around the country.

Suhi Koizumi, a Senior Associate in our Immigration Practice Group, was honored with the prestigious NAPABA Best Under 40 Award, which recognizes talented individuals in the Asian Pacific American legal community who are under the age of 40 and have achieved prominence and distinction in their respective fields, and who have demonstrated a strong commitment to Asian Pacific American civic or community affairs.

Minami Tamaki’s Suhi Koizumi (left of podium) receiving one of NAPABA’s ‘Best Under 40″ awards at the 2017 national convention (photo by Lisa P. Mak).

During CLE breakout sessions, Dale Minami, a Partner in our Personal Injury Group, joined with members of the Asian American Bar Association of New York in a moving re-enactment of the story and trial of Fred Korematsu, which resulted in the overturning of a 40-year-old conviction for Mr. Korematsu’s refusal to obey exclusion orders aimed at Japanese Americans during World War II.  Since Dale was the Lead Counsel for Fred Korematsu, he played himself in the re-enactment, which he described as “quite stressful.”

Minami Tamaki Partner Dale Minami participating in a re-enactment of the Korematsu trial (photo by Lisa P. Mak).

At the Convention, our firm also raised awareness about the Stop Repeating History (stoprepeatinghistory.org) campaign, which seeks to educate the public on the dangers of unchecked presidential power and the parallels between the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II with the current administration’s travel ban executive orders.

All of our attorneys who attended the Convention were a part of the NAPABA Solo and Small Firm Committee, which promotes the interest of small firms through “Boot Camp” seminars, networking, and cross referrals.

The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA), represented by President Miriam Kim, was honored with the NAPABA Affiliate of the Year Award, which recognizes an outstanding local affiliate bar association for its best practices and accomplishments in its local community.  Nassiri & Jung LLP of San Francisco, represented by Charles Jung, was recognized as the APA-Owned Law Firm of the Year.  Pankit Doshi of San Francisco was sworn in as the new President of NAPABA.

Dale was a co-founder of AABA.  Sean Tamura-Sato, a Partner in our Consumer & Employee Rights Group, and Lisa P. Mak, an Associate in the same group, currently serve on AABA’s Board of Directors.

Associates Seema Bhatt (left) and Lisa P. Mak (right) attended their first NAPABA convention (photo courtesy of Lisa. P. Mak).

Lisa and Seema were first-time Convention attendees and were inspired by the experience of seeing so many influential API attorneys in diverse roles and meeting many judges, politicians, and other prominent members of the legal community.

Minami Tamaki is proud to continue supporting NAPABA and its efforts to address civil rights issues, promote community service, and increase diversity in the legal profession.

Partners Dale Minami (left) and Sean Tamura-Sato at the NAPABA 2017 convention (photo by Lisa P. Mak).

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ 2018 Recognizes Minami Tamaki’s Immigration and Personal Injury Practices

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ 2018 Recognizes Minami Tamaki’s Immigration and Personal Injury Practices

Minami Tamaki LLP has received a Tier 1 ranking on the U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list under the “Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs” and “Immigration” categories for our metro area.

This is the fourth consecutive recognition by U.S. News/Best Lawyers of our Personal Injury practice and the third consecutive year of our Immigration practice.

The U.S.News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

To be eligible for a U.S.News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer who is included in Best Lawyers in that particular practice area and metro.

Earlier this year, Partners Dale Minami, Minette A. Kwok, B. Mark Fong, and Senior Associate Olivia Serene Lee were selected by The Best Lawyers in America, which qualified the firm to be considered for the Best Law Firms list.

The attorneys in Minami Tamaki’s Personal Injury Practice Group fight for the rights of people who are injured or have suffered the loss of loved ones due to the carelessness of others. We use a team approach which brings all of the resources of our practice group to bear on our cases. This has allowed us to recover multi-million dollar settlements and large verdicts for our clients.

The Immigration Practice Group of Minami Tamaki LLP offers expertise in a broad array of immigration services. We routinely assist employers and employees, nation-wide, in obtaining temporary and permanent employment-based visas. And, just as often, we help individual clients to secure family-based immigration status through marriage or other qualifying family relationships.

Suhi Koizumi Among NAPABA’s ‘Best Lawyers Under 40’

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) selected Minami Tamaki LLP attorney Suhi Koizumi and 17 others to receive its 2017 Best Lawyers Under 40 Award (BU40 Award).

The BU40 Award recognizes talented individuals in the Asian Pacific American legal community who are under the age of 40 and have achieved prominence and distinction in their respective fields — be it the practice of law, academia, business, civic and charitable affairs, the judiciary, or politics — and who have demonstrated a strong commitment to Asian Pacific American civic or community affairs.

The BU40 Award will be presented on Nov. 2, 2017, during the 2017 NAPABA Convention in Washington, D.C. For a complete list of this year’s award winners, visit http://www.napaba.org/news/362444/NAPABA-Announces-Its-Best-Lawyers-Under-40.htm.

In its announcement, NAPABA stated: “The 2017 class of honorees continues the BU40 Award legacy of excellence and leadership in both the legal and Asian Pacific American communities. NAPABA congratulates the 2017 BU40 Award winners and looks forward to their future successes.”

Suhi is a Senior Associate in our Immigration Practice Group, where she partners with executives and legal and human resources personnel to address a wide spectrum of immigration issues of corporate clients.

She is a past president of the Korean American Bar Association of Northern California and has been recognized by Super Lawyers in the Rising Star category from 2010 through 2017. She has served as General Counsel for the Asian Business League of San Francisco and as a board member of the Korean American Chamber of Commerce. Suhi also regularly volunteers at immigration clinics where she advises indigent clients and has promoted the rights of women fleeing from persecution at the Center for Gender and Refugee studies.

What We’re Witnessing as Business Immigration Attorneys

What We’re Witnessing as Business Immigration Attorneys

After only eight months in office, we are beginning to see the impact of the government’s implementation of Trump administration policies regarding business immigration, as they chip away at many of the benefits your company and its foreign national employees have come to enjoy over the years.

Here is a high-level overview of what we are witnessing:

  • Greater scrutiny and vetting by adjudicating officers, consular officers, and officers at the border.
  • Issuance of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) with much greater frequency and with aggressive new issues.
  • A spike in site visits by the USCIS fraud unit.
  • Harsh adjudication by TN officers in Toronto, Peace Arch, and land borders near Quebec.
  • Mandatory interviews imposed for employment based applicants for adjustment of status.
  • Language added from Trump’s Executive Order to “Buy American Hire American” to all field guidance for consular officers that instructs officers to seek out potential fraud and abuse, and deny work visa applications for U.S. job offers where the officers construe that job can be performed by a U.S. worker.
  • Greater interagency data sharing — between USCIS, USCBP, the Dept. of State, and IRS, and regarding old filings submitted in the past.
  • Lengthier and more arduous USCIS forms, e.g. I-485 applications to adjust status, where up to 70 new questions have been added.
  • The ongoing suspension of premium processing for H-1Bs.

Much of it feels quite mean-spirited and without regard to the impact it may have on businesses, employees, and their families.

Nevertheless, we will continue to advocate tirelessly on behalf of our clients.  Our attorneys remain at the forefront of immigration legal thought at the national and local level and will continue to help navigate you through these challenging times.

Minette A. Kwok is a Partner with Minami Tamaki LLP and a Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law, as designated by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. Our immigration practice has been recognized by “Best Law Firms.” a list by U.S. News – Best Lawyers.

Four Minami Tamaki LLP Attorneys Selected for 24th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America

Four Minami Tamaki LLP Attorneys Selected for 24th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America

Minami Tamaki LLP Partners Dale Minami, Minette Kwok, and B. Mark Fong and Senior Associate Olivia Serene Lee were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in the 24th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America.

Dale and Mark were selected for the list in the practice area of Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs. It is the fifth year in a row that they received this honor.

Minette was selected for inclusion in the practice area of Immigration Law. It is Minette’s fourth consecutive time on The Best Lawyers in America list.

Olivia was also selected for inclusion in the practice area of Immigration Law. It’s Olivia’s inaugural listing in The Best Lawyers in America.

Best Lawyers is a respected peer review publication in the legal profession. Recognition in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers.

The Best Lawyers lists of outstanding attorneys are compiled by conducting exhaustive peer review surveys in which tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. If the votes for an attorney are positive enough for recognition in Best Lawyers, that attorney must maintain those votes in subsequent polls to remain in each edition.

Lawyers are not permitted to pay any fee to participate in or be recognized by Best Lawyers.

Congratulations to Our Firm’s 2017 Northern California Super Lawyers


SUPER LAWYERS 2017 (Photo by Gary Wagner) – BACK ROW (L-R): Seema Bhatt (Rising Stars); Donald K. Tamaki (10-plus years); La Verne A. Ramsay; Suhi Koizumi (Rising Stars); Sean Tamura-Sato (Rising Stars); Olivia Serene Lee (Rising Stars); Heather Osuna; B. Mark Fong (Super Lawyers); FRONT ROW: Jack W. Lee* (10-plus years); Lisa P. Mak (Rising Stars); Minette A. Kwok (10-plus years); Dale Minami (Top 10, Top 100, 10-plus years)

We’re proud to announce that all of Minami Tamaki LLP’s Partners and more than 70 percent of our Associates were selected as Northern California Super Lawyers for 2017. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Three of our Partners have been named Northern California Super Lawyers for the last 14 consecutive years. Dale Minami was named to the Top 10 and Top 100 lists.

Dale Minami – Personal Injury
Super Lawyer Top 10, 2017 (5 years)
Super Lawyer Top 100, 2017 (10 years)
Super Lawyer, 2017 (10+ Years)

Minette A. Kwok – Immigration
Super Lawyer, 2017 (10+ Years)
Super Lawyer, Past Top 50 Women, Northern California (3 years)

Jack W. Lee – Consumer and Employee Rights (*Retired)
Super Lawyer, 2017 (10+ Years)
Super Lawyer, Past Top 100 (1 year)

Donald K. Tamaki – Corporate and Nonprofit Counseling
Super Lawyer, 2017 (10+ Years)

B. Mark Fong – Personal Injury
Super Lawyer, 2017 (8 Years)
Super Lawyer, Past Top 100 (2 Years)

Sean Tamura-Sato – Consumer and Employee Rights
Rising Stars, 2017 (5 years)

Suhi Koizumi – Immigration
Rising Stars, 2017 (8 years)

Olivia Serene Lee – Immigration
Rising Stars, 2017 (4 years)

Lisa P. Mak – Consumer and Employee Rights
Rising Stars, 2017 (3 years)

Seema Bhatt – Personal Injury
Rising Stars, 2017 (inaugural year)

Congratulations to all of you!

Olivia Lee Leads AILA NorCal to Highest Honors in National Organization

Olivia Lee Leads AILA NorCal to Highest Honors in National Organization

PHOTO: AILA NorCal Chair Olivia Lee (second of left) with other chapter leaders accepting the Platinum Chapter Award.​

The Northern California Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) received the Platinum Chapter Award, the organization’s highest honor for chapters, at AILA Annual Conference last week in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Olivia Serene Lee, an associate in our Immigration Practice Group, has served as 2016-2017 Chair for AILA NorCal. She has served on the AILA NorCal Executive Board for the past four years.

Under Olivia’s leadership, AILA NorCal has been at the forefront in proactively responding to the institutional assault against immigrants. When the Trump administration attempted to enact a travel ban on Muslims, AILA NorCal was one of the first groups to respond, providing services at aiports, and offering assistance to those impacted.

She has been actively involved in AILA NorCal since 2009, leading and organizing more than 30 Continuing Legal Education programs in all aspects of immigration law, including prosecutorial discretion, export control, PERM, waivers, asylum, and events with immigration judges, USCIS, CBP, DOL and asylum officers. She also served as faculty on local and national AILA CLE panels on topics such as O-1s and H-1Bs.

AILA is the national bar for immigration attorneys, and AILA NorCal is one of its larger chapters, with over 850 members.