After nearly a decade of dedicated service to CLINIC’s clients, Miguel Naranjo was recently appointed as Director of the Center for Religious Immigration and Protection. Miguel sat down for a brief Q&A to share some of his insights and background.
Miguel, attorneys are usually not known for being brief. But, in 5 words or less, how would you describe your first month as Director?
Five words: a learning and listening experience.
What is your vision for the Religious Immigration Section?
Well first, I hope to continue the legacy of my predecessors, all of whom provided incredible support and led RIS with distinction.
Our mission remains intact, and we want to continue doing what we do best: providing high quality service to Dioceses, religious organizations, and their international religious workers. But given some changes in the landscape, we’d also like to expand our outreach and find new ways to use our experience and skills as immigration attorneys to serve the Catholic Church.
What is the biggest challenge facing RIS in the next six months?
From a practice perspective, the biggest challenge facing our clients is increasing USCIS scrutiny, which is occurring all-around but particularly takes form with “site visits”. These visits now happen with greater frequency than ever before. But given the extraordinary skill and expertise of RIS’s team of attorneys, I am confident that we can help our clients surmount this challenge.
Obviously, the 800 lb gorilla in the room is Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). Naturally, since the proposed legislation has several moving parts and is far from final, we do not know for certain what its implications will be. But even in the shadow of CIR, RIS is exploring what the impact might be and is particularly focusing on how to help religious organizations, new beneficiaries, and others navigate through what will likely be a complicated legal process.
Is there anything that excites you about this next year?
With DACA and CIR in mind, I’m very optimistic about new opportunities through which RIS can broaden our assistance to clients. My optimism is fueled by our talented and equally excited staff.
As an attorney with a busy practice, most of your time is usually spent at the office working with clients. But aside from immigration law, what are your other interests?
First of all, I’m very fortunate to be in a field that I’m truly passionate about. Immigration law has definitely been a huge interest of mine for a long time and, because of that, I never view my career as “work”. But aside from immigration, as a native West Virginian, I’m by nature an outdoors person. I especially love traveling and have my sights on visiting Japan and China someday soon.
What inspires you to do the work that you do?
I’m constantly motivated by our clients. As someone who is aware of the countless and largely charitable contributions of the Catholic Church, it is a personal mission of mine to help the Dioceses and religious organizations I work with as best as I can. That way, in turn, they can continue with the great work that they do, which benefits all of society.
My motivation is also reinforced by the dedicated staff here at CLINIC. Our team never ceases to amaze me with their determination and skill.
What do you enjoy most about working at CLINIC?
I became an attorney to help people. The law—immigration law in particular—can get very complicated and can place good people in very harsh situations. There is nothing quite like the satisfaction that comes from helping a client obtain an R-1 visa or gain permanent residence. Difficult cases are particularly rewarding. Recently, I helped a priest who was in an unusually complicated situation. Despite the hurdles, we were able to help him obtain permanent residence.
Of course, I can’t say enough about my colleagues here at CLINIC. Every voice in the hallway is accompanied by a unique personality with a rich background. The opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues makes coming to work very fun.
Lastly, what is the best advice you've ever received?
The most precious commodity we have in this world is not money—it’s time. Be sure to make the most of your time and live your life as fully as you can.