Maya Lugasy helps defend those who are at risk of deportation and removal from the United States.
While in college, she spent a few months at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. Her Jewish heritage and time as a student in Israel were largely responsible for her desire to assist immigrants and help them attain green cards and citizenship.
Lugasy’s career is still young, but she already has international experience to help her be effective in her field.
“I get to meet people from all around the world,” said Lugasy, an associate partner. “People from countries I probably would have never interacted with ... I feel like I’m very well-connected with the world around me now.”
CJN: Why did you get into immigration law?
Lugasy: I went into law school with a social justice kind of mindset — that’s why I wanted to become a lawyer. My background was in Middle Eastern studies — that’s what I majored in while in college. I was very interested in war-torn countries and issues of refugees; that led me to the practice area of immigration, because that kind of intersected the international aspect with social justice in America.
CJN: Has your Jewish heritage affected you or helped you grow in the professional world?
Lugasy: In terms of the immigration aspect, I just know that’s such a foundational principle in Judaism. It was something that was instilled in me from a young age to be accepting, to help others and to help refugees, especially, given the context of the Holocaust and persecution that Jews have felt. I feel that is a part of who I am, as my Jewish identity. It’s something that’s important to me as a Jewish person to extend that same helping hand that we were extended.
In Israel, in my Ulpan class, I was one of maybe a handful of Jewish people. There were actually a lot of Christians, Palestinians and Muslims, and we were in a very small class setting. Being in that setting with all different kinds of people in Israel, it was kind of like a microcosm of what everyone wants the situation there to be like. Everything that I do is just openness, understanding and tolerance. To me, that’s what my Jewish identity means to me.
CJN: What is the most rewarding part?
Lugasy: Any time I’m able to get someone a green card or a citizenship. The thanks I get for that, there’s no comparison. Every single person is so grateful; nobody takes this for granted ... It has become so much harder during (the former) administration, that every time I’m successful in a case, it just makes it that much better. Because I do have to deal with a lot of bad outcomes, and sometimes it’s nothing that I could have done differently. The gratitude I get from my clients is probably the most rewarding experience ... It’s nearly impossible to represent yourself in immigration court, and there’s no government-funded representation like there is in criminal court, and you don’t have the right to a lawyer either. Any time I’m able to help someone in immigration court, I feel like I’m performing a very necessary service.