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Wayne Law Alumna Navigates Winding Road, Finds Rewarding Career in Immigration Law

January 04, 2010

DETROIT (Jan. 4, 2010) – To say that Patricia Ice took the long way to arrive at her career as an immigration attorney is a bit of an understatement. But certainly all her varied academic and professional experiences were pointing her toward a career helping people from other cultures. She has worked across the country and around the world from Las Vegas to northern Michigan and from Africa to the Caribbean. She has degrees in history, linguistics, library and information science, as well as a J.D. In addition to practicing law, she has taught English, been a college advisor and worked as a librarian.

Ice received her J. D. from Wayne State University Law School in 1979 but didn’t begin practicing law until 1992.
“It took me 13 years after I graduated law school to figure out how I was going to use my law degree,” she said. “All of that time I was searching.”

In 1983, after a few years dabbling in several legal offices, Ice joined the U.S. Peace Corps and went to the Republic of Benin, West Africa, where she taught English and history. When she returned from Africa, she worked as a recruiter in the now-defunct Peace Corps Detroit office. She then went on to earn an M.A. in linguistics from Ohio University and worked in a refugee camp in the Philippines as an English-teaching supervisor. She also taught English in Haiti (surviving the 1991 coup d’etat) and Honduras on a United States Information Agency grant. It was after that she realized how to combine her passion for helping people from other countries and cultures with her law degree. She decided to pursue a career in immigration law.

Still, her career path took a few more twists and turns before she arrived at her current place of employment, the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA). Her first immigration case was in Detroit in 1994, working from an office owned by Dr. Roberta Hughes Wright, a lawyer, writer and widow of Dr. Charles Wright. Ice then went to work as an assistant prosecutor in Antrim County, Michigan before serving as an assistant district attorney in Hobbs, N.M. In 1997, she returned to Wayne State University and earned a master’s degree in library and information science.

It was that degree that took her down south, to the Mississippi College School of Law Library. She began volunteering for the MIRA and met founder – and future husband – Bill Chandler at the MIRA’s second meeting in 2001.

In 2006, Ice became the director of MIRA’s Legal Project and has found it to be one of the most demanding yet rewarding work experiences she has had thus far.

“Sometimes I feel burned out due to the magnitude of the clients’ problems, but then I take a deep breath or a vacation and I count my blessings and go back to work,” she said. “Every time I help a client obtain lawful permanent residence and/or naturalization I feel very good about my work.”

She added, “I also feel content when I help an immigrant crime victim get a U-visa to stay in the U.S. to fight the case. I have a client who was the victim of a brutal rape last year; she has received U-visa status and her assailant is in custody, has been indicted and will be put to trial soon. Often in Mississippi no one who civilly or criminally injures an immigrant is ever brought to justice.”

Currently, Ice is working on termination and suppression motions that MIRA filed in the New Orleans immigration court on behalf of some former Howard Industries, Inc. workers who were arrested on Aug. 25, 2008, in the largest single worksite enforcement raid in the history of U.S. immigration.

Though there are some unique challenges involved in immigration cases, such as, according to Ice, certain evidence not being suppressible, she is fulfilled by her work and looks forward to a long legal career.

“I often look at the road I have traveled as an African-American woman who left her beloved hometown of Detroit, went to Mississippi alone with no family members in the state,” Ice said. “It has been an interesting, incredible experience.”

About Wayne Law
Wayne State University Law School has educated and served the Detroit metropolitan area since its inception as Detroit City Law School in 1927. Located at 471 West Palmer Street in Detroit’s re-energized historic cultural center, the Law School remains committed to student success and features modern lecture and court facilities, multi-media classrooms, a 250-seat auditorium, and the Arthur Neef Law Library, which houses one of the nation's 30 largest legal collections. Taught by an internationally recognized and expert faculty, Wayne Law students experience a high-quality legal education via a growing array of hands-on curricular offerings, client clinics, and access to well over 100 internships with local and non-profit entities each year. Its 11,000 living alumni, who work in every state of the nation and more than a dozen foreign countries, are experts in their disciplines and include leading members of the local, national and international legal communities. For more information, visit www.law.wayne.edu.


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