Martin Rothstein – Safe Passage Attorney of the Week

Safe Passage, February 24, 2014



Martin Rothstein (who sometimes like to be called Don Martin), has over 40 years of experience as an Immigration attorney.  He received his B.A. from the City College of New York in 1965.  After obtaining his J.D. from the New York University School of Law in 1968, he was admitted to practice in New York.  A member of the New York, American, and Federal Bar Associations, Mr. Rothstein has contributed considerable service to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  Mr. Rothstein has served on AILA”s National Board of Governors, as Chairman of the New York Chapter, Co-Chair of the Eastern Region Liaison Committee, Co-Chair of the Consular Affairs/Visa Office Liaison Committee, Chair of the National Visa Office Liaison Committee, and Chair of the National Naturalization Liaison Committee.  Mr. Rothstein was a faculty member of the AILA Annual Conference and a lecturer on AILA”s Immigration Law and Practice seminar for 27 years.  He has lectured at numerous continuing legal education institutes and law schools.

Mr. Rothstein has earned substantial recognition for his work, including being featured in the International Who”s Who of Business Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, New York Super Lawyers, and “New York Area Best Lawyers” in New York Magazine.  Mr. Rothstein is the co-author of “US Immigration Laws: Working, Living and Studying in America” which has been translated into Japanese and Chinese, and enjoys wide circulation both in the United States and throughout the world.

Mr. Rothstein was a Senior Partner at Barst Mukamal & Klenier (BKM) LLP which is one of the oldest and largest Immigration and Nationality Law firms in the United States.  He retired from BMK LLP in August 2012.  Prior to joining BMK LLP, Mr. Rothstein was a general attorney for the Federal Communications Commission and a trial attorney for the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  He is fluent in Spanish.  Mr. Rothstein is now an Adjunct Professor at New York Law School and an Attorney Mentor for the law school students in the Safe Passage Project.

Q.  How did you learn about the Safe Passage Project?

A. I had a working relationship with Professor Lennie Benson who referred many law students to my firm. When I told Professor Benson that I would be retiring from my law firm, she invited me to become an adjunct professor for the Basic and Advanced Immigration Law Courses at New York Law School, as well and a faculty mentor for the law students in the Safe Passage Project.  I retired in Fall 2012, and assumed the adjunct and faculty mentoring positions then.

Q.    What is your role in the Safe Passage Project?

I am one of the faculty mentors to the law students working with Safe Passage Project.  I take my job as a faculty mentor very seriously.   While I don’t work on any of the cases personally, my years of experience in immigration law have taught me how to read a client’s body language and more than just what they say.   Therefore, I try to impart some of these skills and insight to law students.  During docket intake interviews, I usually direct students on when and how to pursue a sensitive topic and whenit may not be worth pursuing.

Q    Why did you accept the position as a Faculty Mentor for the Safe Passage Project after retirement?

A.    Based on my 40 years of legal practice in immigration law, I thought that I could bring valuable insight to law school students who might go on to practice in the area of immigration law.    Additionally, the Safe Passage Project offered me the unique opportunity to work with clients and mentor law school students simultaneously.  While working with clients is not new to me, I thought it would be interesting to mentor students in the law school environment.

The structure of the Safe Passage Program is also more conducive to rational teaching and proper mentoring.  Now I get to have one and one time with students to give them meaningful guidance absent all the distraction that comes with mentoring in a law firm.  I mentored law students at my previous law firm.   However, this mentoring was done under the pressures of meeting the challenges of a private practice such as setting up client meetings, constant phone calls, fee collection issues, etc.

Q. What makes the Safe Passage Project such an effective vehicle in helping immigrant children?

A. Safe Passage is great from a humanitarian perspective because it connects children with a Humanitarian law that Congress created.    Safe Passage helps some immigrant children avoid the horrors of children who are placed in group homes and educated until they are 18 and then deported to their home countries.  It gives children who are eligible for relief a chance to make a meaningful contribution to the American Way.

The Safe Passage Program also  plays a very pivotal role in the immigration system because it helps take away from the perception that our country is one that would deport young children back to their home countries where they suffered horrible atrocities.    The Safe Passage Program further help affirms the cornerstone principles of both Family and Juvenile law of our country – that the best interest of the children is paramount.

Q. What is most rewarding about working with the Safe Passage Project?

A.  In addition to assisting children and providing representation to children and families who would otherwise have no hope, working with the Safe Passage Project makes me feel good to see the transition of the students; watching the progress of students as they change and turn into attorneys, soon to be colleagues.    Also, although I have been involved in many pro-bono initiatives, I enjoy Safe Passage because of its focus on the children.

Q.   In addition to the work you do with NYLS,  how else do you spend your time now that you are retired?

A.  One of the perks of being retired is that now I get to have a full night’s sleep, except on the days that I have the Safe Passage dockets.  I also do a day at my old firm and take advanced Spanish literature courses at the instituto Cervantes.    I attend various Bar Association, American Immigration Law Association (AILA) events, and social and educational receptions at various foreign consulates.  More importantly, I have more time to spend with my family.  However, learning how to enjoy retirement is a work in progress.

***Safe Passage Attorney of the Week Feature written by NYLS Student and Safe Passage volunteer, Nicola Chambers.