Immigrant advocate

Seventeen years navigating U.S. citizenship process inspired Nemaei to pursue law

As a child, Romina Nemaei moved with their family from Iran to the United States. Nemaei, who uses they/them pronouns, obtained citizenship in 2013. Seventeen years spent navigating the convoluted U.S. citizenship process inspired Nemaei to pursue law.

“I honestly think one of the best ways you can advocate for people, and help true governance, is by practicing law,” Nemaei says. “Because the law inherently is built to keep people out. It’s built to be confusing. It’s built to be difficult to understand.” Loyola University Chicago’s social justice-driven approach appealed to Nemaei. They share the twists and turns of the immigration process and how that experience inspired them to enroll in the School of Law to study immigration law and litigation. 



"One of the best ways you can advocate for people, and help true governance, is by practicing law."

On the citizenship process:

There’s this form for citizenship called the N-400. And it’s very long. It’s very convoluted. If anyone ever says, “Why do you want to be an immigration lawyer?” I say, try to fill out that form yourself. Follow all the minute ways you need to do this, which aren’t common knowledge. When I was volunteering in college and seeing how difficult it was for different immigrant communities to parse this paperwork without guidance, I thought, “I’ve got to do something about this.”

On their favorite Loyola class:

I thought [Constitutional Law] was going to be dry, but I really, really loved it. I had Professor Barry Sullivan, and I think about law in a completely different way now. It was really eye opening.  My favorite thing has been when we were talking about presidential powers. I love explaining to my family why President Trump can’t do something. If the president is threatening an executive order, I can explain it to my family: This is how much he can actually do, and this is what he could be sued for in court [as] an overreach of power.


The immigrant share of Chicago’s population, 2016

(Source: New Americans in Chicago, New American Economy)


Loyola offers numerous hands-on experiences: 6 clinics, 4 practica, including the the immigration-related practicum, and numerous externships.


In Chicago, immigrants are 67.4% more likely to be entrepreneurs than their U.S.-born counterparts

(Source: New Americans in Chicago, New American Economy)

On post-graduation plans:

I definitely want to continue doing immigration work after I graduate, but I’m not entirely sure in what capacity. It’s something I love, and it is the main reason I decided to go to law school, so I definitely want to continue advocating for the immigrant communities in Chicago.

I would love to be able to do pro bono immigration work. A lot of immigration work is inaccessible to people because it’s so expensive to hire a lawyer. The ability to take on cases pro bono provides immeasurable support to your community. –Megan Kirby


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