Angelo A. PaparelliABIL
“We face a government culture of ‘no’ but we must do our best under law to extract ‘yes’ answers, so that our clients can achieve the American Dream as they define it.”
Angelo Paparelli’s Story
Angelo comes from an Italian family of modest origins who migrated to Detroit, Michigan. Growing up in the inner city alongside Italian, Polish, German and African Americans, experiencing cultural diversity was second nature. Angelo learned of immigrants’ hardships sitting at the knees of his strong-willed and powerful grandmothers, who were not afraid to stand up to the local mafia syndicate that tried to extort “protection” money. When he accompanied one of his fearless grandmothers to the immigration office to sponsor relatives from Italy, he was astounded by the ability of the immigration officer to leave her trembling and weak. Angelo found this discrimination toward immigrants unjust, as he had been taught to speak truth to power, fight because the cause is right, and stand up for the little guy. All of these qualities made the perfect formula for an immigration lawyer, but Angelo didn’t realize it right away.
Angelo received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Pre-Legal Studies from the University of Michigan in 1971 and his Juris Doctor degree from Wayne State University in 1976. He went on to work as a judicial law clerk for a judge in the Michigan Court of Appeals. With an international outlook, he moved into a firm that did international business and tax law. After being approached by a senior partner of his law firm, he initially declined to serve as the firm’s immigration expert, thinking that immigration law would not be as interesting. It wasn’t until he attended his first American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) conference that Angelo became aware of how passionate the immigration lawyers were and what an inspiring practice it could be.
Angelo began by working on business immigration cases, but as the Iranian revolution erupted and many of its citizens fled to various parts of the United States, he started to assist those immigrants in asylum and family matters. It excited him to be working with individuals and to see the direct results. Angelo soon discovered that immigration law is as complex as tax law: both cover almost every area of human activity, as well as administrative law, litigation, and related federal and state laws. The difference is that his clients were individuals seeking to achieve the American dream.
Practicing immigration law since 1978, Angelo has always been motivated most by doing the right thing. He has spoken out, written and published prolifically to influence the development of the law. This passion has set him apart from many of his peers and in 2010, his excellence in advocacy in immigration law was recognized when he received AILA’s prestigious Edith Lowenstein Award.
Angelo has always been impressed by the willingness of immigration lawyers to share information and support one another. As the complexities of immigration law increased, he recognized the crucial need to bring the top minds in the field together, and in 2000 he formed the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers. As its founder and first president, Angelo continues to use ABIL as a vehicle to bring about change and to educate employers and immigrants on their rights and opportunities in the United States.
Angelo is an influential voice in the immigration reform movement. His reputation as one of the most versatile leaders in the field, in legal immigration (employment- and family-based categories), removal defense and government advocacy, is rooted not only in his years of experience as an immigration attorney, but also as a speaker, educator, advocate, mentor and writer.
Practicing immigration law in the post-9/11 era not only requires the ability to advocate in the traditional manner, according to Angelo it also requires a willingness to go into federal court to fight for those who deserve another chance. Angelo makes skillful use of traditional and social media to draw attention to government behavior that is unfair and unjust. He continues to remember the plight of his immigrant grandparents and will go to all measures to help similar individuals to attain the opportunities that the United States has to offer.