Get on the path to results today.
Get on the path to results today.
By Shaila A. Mentore
With more than 32 years as a practicing immigration attorney, Temple University School of Law and Fordham University alumnus, Millicent Clarke is not only ambitious but a believer that hard work pays off. "I work hard and have always worked hard," Clarke said. The daughter of an immigrant family, Clarke has always had a desire to help people. She has had the opportunity to serve in the United States Attorney's office and work in immigration with the U.S. Department of Justice, among other coveted positions in her career.
Her career began in the summer of 1978 in the U.S. Department of Justice as an Honors Student. "Back then there were no jobs available and people were very mean-spirited," Clarke said. "I was told by a black man that he doesn't know why I'm killing myself because I will be a glorified paralegal like the other women," she said. "I always tell students it's not about how bright they are, it's about their attitude."
Clarke remembers being called in to work on a weekend and being remembered by her supervisors because of it. She attributes this experience to getting a job as an attorney for the Immigration and Naturalization Services in Chicago. In that position she worked with her fellow Jamaicans, Mexicans, Belizeans and Polish people. She was the first black trial attorney appearing on behalf of the immigration department. "Boy, did I catch it from some people, some of the clerks, believe it or not, the attorneys were ok," Clarke said.
Relationships were and still are the key to Clarke's success. She has gotten many opportunities because she has worked hard, she's good at what she does and she is not shy about picking up the phone and calling in favors. Clarke's relationships have afforded her the opportunity to work in various departments in government, where she worked with Cubans and Haitians and saw them treated very differently by the U.S. Government. "That was a real issue for me, because the Cubans were given social security numbers and food stamps, but the Haitians were being held in Chrome, I thought it was so unjust," Clarke said.
She also had the opportunity to work as a Special Assistant for the U.S. Immigration Attorney's office, a coveted position, but Clarke hit the ground running, as she was responsible for all the immigration work for Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and Staten Island. In 1989 Clarke became Assistant U.S. Attorney, a position she stayed in for eight years before realizing she became an attorney to change things and deal with injustice, and wanted to do something else. She later got an offer to become an immigration judge, and though the interview went well, she did not accept the position. "I didn't want to get fat," she jokes. "I don't like people lying to me, so I really didn't want to be a judge." Clarke left to work for a private firm, but later started her own practice. "If I knew starting my own practice would have been this difficult, I probably wouldn't have done it," Clarke said. She didn't realize attorneys were treated with such disrespect and contempt; it was new to her. Clarke did not advertise her services when she opened her doors; instead she was sent referrals from other attorneys. "I was referred some of the worst cases, people didn't want to pay. They want the expertise you have, but they refuse to pay for it," she said.
While Clarke loves her Caribbean people, she says they· can sometimes be the most trouble because they don't always read the retainer agreement and they go from attorney to attorney because they are impatient. "If someone has been to more than two attorneys I don't usually take the case," Clarke said.
It's not uncommon to tune in to a Caribbean radio show or pick up a Caribbean newspaper and hear and see advertisements for immigration attorneys, but Clarke & Associates are different. "I talk to you until you understand what I'm saying, because immigration is so complicated, the only thing more complicated is taxation," Clarke said. "People are often told not to waste money on attorneys. because they can't help them. Whether it's your fault or not, they always blame you. They just want you to file motions, they are not interested in the process, they want it done. If people are willing to fight and pay, they can most often avoid deportation," Clarke said. "Most people are deported because they don't have proper legal counsel," she added.
Clarke & Associates have the experience and they are passionate about immigration and helping people.
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