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July 25, 2013

Growing up in the only Chinese-American family in a small town in California, Jenny Tsai was instilled with a drive to help outsiders. After graduating from the USF School of Law in 1998, she and fellow classmate Roger Green opened Green and Tsai, a small immigration law practice in downtown San Francisco, which is now celebrating its second Ninth Circuit victory, Regalado-Escobar v. Holder.

In this case, their El Salvadorian client was approached by guerrillas, during the country’s violent civil war, to join their cause. He was physically assaulted when he did not join. He fled to the United States for safety, but his request for asylum was denied. With Green and Tsai’s help, he fought to stay in the country, and the question on appeal was whether opposing violence is political opinion and therefore protected under asylum. The Ninth Circuit grappled with issues including politics and the use of violence. Last month, the court ruled that violence could be seen as part of political opinion, and remanded the case to the lower court for review. It is likely that their client will be granted asylum. 

 

This case has important implications for all who resist political violence. With this broader definition of political opinion, more immigrants will likely qualify for asylum. 

Their recent success builds on a previous Ninth Circuit victory of Green and Tsai’s, Guzman-Andrade v. Ashcroft in 2005, in which they asked the court to review whether it has jurisdiction to consider appeals to Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) decisions. In that case, the Ninth Circuit ruled in their favor that it did have jurisdiction, and the verdict opened up a venue for appealing INS decisions, when there previously had been no such opportunity. 

“Everyone talks about theories regarding immigration in the big picture as it pertains to the millions and millions of immigrants that may or may not stay in this country,” said Tsai. “I focus on one client at a time.”

Tsai explained how valuable her USF law school education has been to her legal career. “Legal research is the most important,” and she gained a strong foundation in it while at USF and found it critical to their Ninth Circuit wins. “With the ability to do legal research, you can practice almost any law you want.” 

When asked what advice she has for students and new graduates, Tsai shared the principle that has guided her career: “Make sure you are helping the people you want to. Have a passion for whatever it is you do.”