Job Opportunities

Immigration Attorney

Vacancy Announcement:
PDS-2022-16
Pay Series:

PDS 11/12 (GS-11/12 equivalent)  

Opening Date:
Jun 13, 2022
Closing Date:
Jul 8, 2022
Organization Description:

The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) is a federally funded, independent organization governed by an eleven-member Board of Trustees. PDS provides legal representation to individuals who are facing a loss of liberty in criminal, delinquency, and mental health justice matters in the local District of Columbia justice system but who are financially unable to obtain adequate representation.  PDS’s staff consists of approximately 100 attorneys and approximately 100 social workers, investigators, administrative, and technical staff. Most employees work at the main office at 633 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.  District of Columbia residency is not a requirement for employment. PDS is funded by federal appropriations, and all employees are entitled to participate in certain federal benefit plans: health and life insurance, federal retirement, and the Thrift Savings Plan. Employees with creditable federal service will receive recognition of that service for leave accrual and retirement purposes.  

Employment at PDS is at will and is neither federal nor District of Columbia government employment. 

The PDS COVID-19 vaccination policy requires as a condition of employment that all employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive from PDS a reasonable accommodation due to a disability or sincere religious belief. If you are offered a position and decide to join PDS, then before starting work at PDS you will be required either (A) to submit proof that you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to your initial HR representative or (B) to request and receive an accommodation due to disability of sincere religious belief.


Immigration Program Background:

PDS has had a dedicated Immigration Staff Attorney since 2015, and hired a two-year Immigration Fellow to join its immigrant defense unit in 2020 whose term will end in August 2022. Currently, the PDS Immigration Attorney and PDS Immigration Fellow advise PDS and Criminal Justice Act (CJA) appointed attorneys as well as noncitizen clients on the immigration consequences of criminal cases. This work includes assessing noncitizen clients’ current immigration status and available relief from deportation; performing research on the immigration consequences of DC code offenses; identifying alternative dispositions that minimize immigration consequences; and negotiating with the government for more immigration friendly dispositions. The PDS immigration attorneys advise compassionate release clients and duty day clients  regarding the immigration consequences of past criminal cases, and litigate post-conviction claims on behalf of immigrant clients as well as issues pertaining to immigration status in DC Superior Court. The PDS immigration attorney also engages in education and advocacy regarding immigration enforcement in the DC criminal justice system, and participates in stakeholder meetings regarding the same.

Position Description:

PDS seeks a full-time, permanent immigration attorney to join PDS’s current Staff Immigration Attorney in managing and growing PDS’s immigrant defense program. The Immigration Attorney will be responsible for the following tasks, among others:

  • Advising PDS, Criminal Justice Act (CJA), and other pro bono criminal defense attorneys and their clients in both written and oral form on the immigration consequences of pending criminal cases.
  • Identifying alternative dispositions that minimize the immigration consequences for clients.
  • Assisting PDS and CJA attorneys with crafting legal arguments and strategies to avoid triggering those consequences.
  • Advocating on behalf of clients in court and in negotiations with prosecutors.
  • Providing immigration law support to attorneys at arraignments, evidentiary hearings, during the plea agreement negotiation process, and at other stages of the representation where the client’s immigration status could be adversely affected by a representational decision or where immigration issues could be used to adversely affect the outcome of the client’s criminal case.
  • Developing claims for immigration relief for noncitizen clients to present in immigration court and placing clients with pro bono immigration attorneys.
  • Advising compassionate release and IRAA clients regarding immigration options.
  • Advising duty day clients on the immigration consequences of sealing arrest records.
  • Representing noncitizen clients in post-conviction litigation.
  • Seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status predicate findings on behalf of clients with juvenile delinquency cases where appropriate.
  • Representing noncitizen clients in affirmative immigration applications when appropriate.
  • Drafting written training materials and practice advisories on immigration law.
  • Updating an immigrant defense program section on the PDS website.
  • Training PDS and CJA attorneys and staff on immigration issues.
  • Engaging in advocacy and community education regarding immigration enforcement in the DC criminal justice system.

The attorney in this position will not be representing individuals in removal proceedings, but the position will require appearances in DC Superior Court for criminal, post-conviction matters, or to seek findings for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.

Required Qualifications:

Immigration law experience with experience in the intersection of criminal and immigration law; strong legal research and writing skills; excellent communication and organizational skills; a commitment to providing zealous, team-oriented defense to indigent noncitizen clients facing  criminal charges; and fluency in Spanish.

Preferred Qualifications:
Membership in good standing in the District of Columbia Bar or membership in good standing in another jurisdiction with eligibility for admission to the District of Columbia Bar; criminal-immigration law experience at a public defender office or in removal defense work; interest and experience performing research using the categorical approach.
How To Apply:

Submit a pdf containing your complete application to the PDS website by July 8, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. The application should include a cover letter, resume, three references (name, address, telephone number and a statement of how each reference is able to evaluate your skills), a law school transcript (unofficial copy acceptable), and a recent writing sample (preferably immigration or post-conviction related.) If you are unable to submit your application materials through the website or have questions about the position, our organization, or the hiring process, contact Jennifer Thomas, Director of Legal Recruiting, at (202) 824-2337 or jenthomas@pdsdc.org.

PDS is an Equal Opportunity Employer and E-Verify Participating Agency.