A Passion for Immigration Law

W. Paul Alvarez, '16

W. Paul Alvarez’s (’16) passion for immigration law is rooted in his own immigration story. Paul was born in Ecuador and later became a naturalized citizen of the United States. "My parents believed that the best chance we had for a better life was to immigrate to the United States. We wanted a chance to live the ‘American Dream’ that we had heard so much about. Therefore, my family settled in New York and we assimilated quickly. However, as assimilated as we were, we were still living unlawfully in this country. My father knew that the key to our survival was to obtain lawful status that would allow us to live freely in this country. Through an employment sponsorship, my father was able to obtain permanent resident status for our family. I knew at that moment that our life had changed because becoming a permanent resident of the United States would open so many different opportunities for my family. There and then I knew that I wanted to help other immigrants achieve the ‘American Dream’ that I was blessed to have been given."

From that point, every educational step that Paul took was with the motivation to become someone who could help others achieve their "American Dream" as he and his family had achieved theirs. Attending SUNY Oneonta, Paul was a political science and Spanish major. He was frequently on the Dean’s List, a member of the pre-law society and President of the fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon. "I knew that my ultimate journey would be law school."

After receiving his Bachelor’s degree, Paul decided to help run his family owned business, Alvarez Cleaning Service, Inc. To date, he has served as an owner, manager, and bookkeeper for the company. In 2016 he was awarded Business Person of the Year by the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce. While still working for his family business, Paul also applied for and was offered a paralegal position at Julie Mullaney Attorney at Law, a small law firm in Westchester, focusing on immigration law. "It was great experience. I was able to see what an immigration attorney did from A to Z, ranging from larger issues to day-to-day issues. And, most importantly, it re-solidified my desire to attend law school and become an immigration attorney."

As for choosing Pace Law – "it just made sense," and had everything Paul was looking for – from location in Westchester, but close to New York City to a top-notch immigration law program featuring practical and classroom learning. While at Pace, Paul immersed himself in as much as he was able. "I was a member of the Pace Law Advocacy Honor Board as the Director of Internal Competitions; I participated in every oral advocacy competition that I was able – from immigration, to criminal law, to sports arbitration. I was the president and one of the founding members of the Immigration Law Student Organization, Vice-President of the Public Interest Law Student Organization and the Vice President of the Latin American Law Students Association, a representative for BARBRI, and Admissions Ambassador and Mentor, part of the Faculty-Student band, and player on the Pace intramural soccer team. I looked at every opportunity as a way to broaden my perspective and meet new people. And, I was fortunate to have so many opportunities."

Significantly, while Paul was at Pace he was a student attorney with the Pace Criminal Justice Clinic and the Pace Immigration Justice Clinic. He gained practical, hands-on, real-life, attorney experience through both of these opportunities. "I was doing things in these Clinics that most law students experience for the first time only as admitted attorneys. It was fascinating." His three most influential professors in law school were Vanessa Merton, David Dorfman and Lou Fasulo because each one of them taught him so many important lessons on becoming a zealous attorney that he will carry on for the rest of his career.

Today, Paul is an Associate Attorney at the office of Julie Mullaney Attorney at Law, the same firm that gave him his start as a paralegal before attending Law School. "I have worked in the immigration field as a paralegal, law clerk, and now an attorney for the last ten years. I have experience representing detained and non-detained clients in a variety of immigration matters. While working in the immigration field, one recurring theme that I have observed is the lack of knowledge that immigrants have regarding their rights. It is sad and frustrating to see that the lives of many immigrants are put in jeopardy because they either did not understand the gravity of their situation or they were taken advantage of by "notarios" who prey on the vulnerability of immigrants. My mission has been to guide my clients in the complex immigration matters and to coordinate community outreach programs that inform immigrants about their rights and opportunities for immigration relief. In this very difficult immigration climate, I’m willing to do everything that I can to keep families together."

Paul is also involved in various legal organizations – he is a member of the New York State Bar Association and the Westchester County Bar Association. Within the New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) he has served as the Secretary of the Student Liaison Committee and is also a member of the Citizenship Day Committee and a member of the UPL and Ethics Committee.

In his spare time, Paul enjoys spending time with his family and friends. He is die-hard Yankee fan who also roots for the NY Giants and Rangers. He is enjoys playing in recreational soccer and kickball leagues.