Danielle Atchison fights for her clients on and off the clock, serving as a business immigration attorney at Mdivani Corporate Immigration Law Firm while also working on pro bono cases for those facing struggles with immigration and domestic abuse.
Atchison practices corporate immigration law, helping employers with immigration compliance plans, policies and procedures, and handling immigration-related defense in federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement worksite enforcement investigations, among other things. But her core passion is the pro bono work that her law firm allows her to pursue to help immigrants without the finances or resources to hire representation.
“I went to law school in 2011 [at the University of Missouri-Kansas City] to become an immigration attorney because I worked in restaurants during high school and college, and I had a lot of friends who were immigrants,” she said.
“I watched the process with their attorneys, and my heart went out to them with the amount of money they were spending,” she said. “A lot of times, they were really confused about what was going on, and I thought, ‘I can help.’ So that’s what I did.”
Atchison won The Missouri Bar Pro Bono Award and the Kansas Bar Pro Bono Certificate in 2017. But she said her proudest achievement has been winning a case involving the federal Violence Against Women Act that enabled an immigrant woman who had suffered domestic abuse to finally bring her daughter to join her in America.
“They had been separated for many years because the abuser promised to bring the daughter over later and never did, of course,” Atchison said. “To reunite a family and be a large part of that is a really good feeling.”
Atchison said she is grateful to her firm for allowing her to devote time to pro bono work, and to Managing Partner Mira Mdivani for mentoring her since college, when she took Mdivani’s classes at UMKC.
Within the firm, she is most proud of her work to help companies bring talented medical, tech or other specialists from other countries, which has become increasingly challenging as the federal government tightens immigration requirements.
“Every one of those we win is a celebration because we are up against such crazy times and such a strongly opposing federal government that each one of those is a success,” she said.
Her clients range from very large companies in the financial sector to local startups. In Kansas City, there is a shortage of workers with STEM backgrounds, and Atchison helps foreign nationals with computer science or engineering backgrounds obtain work visas to join startups in the U.S.
“Those are really fun to win as well because you’re enabling a new business,” she said.
In the future, Atchison said, she wants to help expand the Corporate Immigration Compliance Institute, a company affiliated with the firm that provides corporate immigration training.
She also wants to help expand the firm’s pro bono programs by implementing more attorney training services — especially in regard to the federal Violence Against Women Act — as well as offering training at women’s shelters to instruct advocates on how to best help their clients. She said she hopes the shelters then will refer victims so she can pair them with a growing network of pro bono attorneys.