Since its inception at the 2011 Midyear Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, the Section’s “Hot Topics in Diversity Law” panel has been a highly anticipated event at Midyear Meetings. The “Hot Topics” panel focuses on current legal issues confronting diverse communities and on diversity in the legal profession. At the 2014 Midyear Meeting, six panelists discussed subjects ranging from immigration law to the school-to-prison pipeline.
This year’s panel started with Chicago attorney Bonita Hwang Cho addressing best practices in immigration law. She talked about the extraordinary length of time it can take for persons to gain U.S. citizenship through proper legal channels and the difficulties faced by families when children obtain citizenship by virtue of being born in the United States to noncitizen parents. Current immigration laws can, and often do, split these families. Ms. Cho shared her hopes that the proposed immigration reforms by the Obama Administration will address these frustrations and keep families together.
Continuing with the theme of law and family, matrimonial attorney Lester L. Barclay, author of The African-American Guide to Divorce & Drama: Breaking Up Without Breaking Down, addressed using unique cultural characteristics to resolve divorce and custody cases. He noted that all ethnic communities have unique characteristics that, if addressed during divorce and custody proceedings, leave families in the best possible position if the marital unit is broken. One example Barclay gave was the fact that African-American families are typically matriarchal in nature. During one high-profile divorce case he was handling when the couple was being particularly difficult about settling their differences regarding finances and children, Barclay called in the couple’s mothers to talk to the couple about their behavior and how it was affecting the grandchildren. Once the mothers were done “discussing” their behavior with the couple, the issues were quickly resolved.