New feature: Customize your PLUS research experience with My Preferences. Learn more.
Skip to main content

Basic Immigration Law 2020: Business, Family, Naturalization and Related Areas

Speaker(s): Alexis S. Axelrad, Amy C. Cococcia, Brian J. Meier, Cheryl R. David, Cora-Ann V. Pestaina, Cyrus D. Mehta, David Grunblatt, Jojo Annobil, Jun H. Lee, Karin Wolman, Kenneth Craig Dobson, Matthew L. Guadagno, Noemi E. Masliah, Timothy Houghton
Recorded on: Feb. 6, 2020
PLI Program #: 275716

Amy Cococcia is a Partner at the New York office of Fragomen, where she has practiced immigration law for more than 20 years. Amy currently leads worldwide engagements for multinational financial and technology companies.

Amy regularly counsels clients regarding employer sanctions and I-9 compliance issues, represents companies in I-9 investigations before Immigration Customs Enforcement, and advises clients on the E-Verify program and Social Security Administration "No-Match" letter issues. She provides counsel to multinational companies on I-9 policy development and program implementation for compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act, including discrimination related issues in their recruitment and hiring processes. Amy also has extensive experience representing both corporate and individual clients regarding professional work visas, extraordinary ability petitions, family-based permanent residency, and complex citizenship and naturalization matters.

In 2015, Amy was on a short-term assignment to the firm’s Singapore and Malaysia offices, where she was instrumental in the opening and development of Fragomen’s office in Kuala Lumpur.

Amy is a Fellow of the Foreign Policy Association, a Board Member of the Tufts Lawyers Association, and a member of several industry associations, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Foreign Law Association and the Federal Bar Council. She holds a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School and a B.A. from Tufts University. Amy was listed in Best Lawyers in America from 2017 to 2020, and Super Lawyers from 2013 to 2019. 

Brian J. Meier graduated from St. John’s University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice in 1998, allowing him to apply for the “Outstanding Scholar’s” program with Legacy INS. Hired as a District Adjudications Officer in April of 2001 he began working in the Garden City Office. In June of 2009 Mr. Meier would become a supervisor in the Naturalization Unit of Garden City. In the winter of 2011 SISO Meier helped the transfer of Garden City to the Queens Field Office.  After supervising both the Naturalization and Adjustment units, SISO Meier was promoted to Section Chief in September 2014. SC Meier received the Director’s Award in 2016 as the Field Operations Directorate Supervisor of the Year for 2015. In August of 2016 Mr. Meier became the Deputy Field Office Director of the Queens Field Office and the Acting Deputy Field Office Director of the Adjustment of Status Unit in the New York District Office. In June of 2017 Mr. Meier became the Field Office Director of the Queens Field Office. Mr. Meier currently remains the Director of the Queens Field Office, leading a highly motivated team tasked with assisting one of the most diverse communities in the United States.

Cheryl R. David has been practicing immigration law since 1995.  She handles all aspects of immigration law with an emphasis on removal and family-based cases.  Prior to opening her own practice she was an associate for five years at Bretz & Coven, LLP where her main area of concentration was deportation defense of individuals with criminal convictions.  She currently is on the Board of Directors of Asista and Co-Chair of the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) committee of AILA-NY.  She is currently on the Department of State national committee of AILA.  Some of her past positions and membership include:  Member, AILA ICE National Committee, 2016-18; Director, American Immigration Lawyers Association Board of Governors, 2007-2013; Member, Board of Directors of the City Bar Fund of New York – 2007-2013; Chair, National Liaison Committee for the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Executive Office for Immigration Review, 2010-2012; Chair, National Liaison Committee for the American Immigration Lawyers Association and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), 2007-2010, Chair, AILA NY ICE - Detention & Removal Committee, 2007-2009; Chair and Founder, NY AILA Chapter of the juvenile pro-bono committee with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, 2007-2009; Member, Immigration & Nationality Committee of the City Bar, 2008-2011 Co-Chair, NY AILA Chapter Pro Bono Committee -2007-2009.

Cora-Ann V. Pestaina is a Partner at Cyrus D. Mehta and Partners, PLLC where she practices primarily in the area of business immigration law. She represents large global corporate clients, emerging growth companies and individuals in a wide range of industries including Information Technology, Finance, Healthcare, Pharmaceutical, Management Consulting and Design. Ms. Pestaina has extensive experience in PERM labor certifications and she regularly counsels clients regarding temporary employment-based nonimmigrant visas and permanent residence sponsorship for their foreign national employees. She also represents artists and investors including EB-5 investors. Ms. Pestaina also represents individuals in family-based applications and naturalization.

Ms. Pestaina received her J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law/Yeshiva University where she served as an Editor for the Cardozo Women’s Law Journal.  She earned her B.A. in Political Science from Marymount Manhattan College.

Ms. Pestaina is admitted to practice in New York and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) where she served several terms as co-chair of the New York Chapter’s Department of Labor Committee and the Corporate Practice Committee.  Ms. Pestaina is also the author of articles that have appeared in professional publications such as Bender’s Immigration Bulletin and on the firm’s website,, and the firm’s blog, The Insightful Immigration Blog.  She has been a featured speaker on various business immigration panels including at AILA meetings and conferences both locally and nationally. She was a speaker on PERM labor certifications at the AILA New York Chapter Immigration Law Symposium in 2011 and 2014; at the AILA National Immigration Conference in 2016 and 2017; and at the 2017 AILA PERM/H-2B Practice Conference.

She is included in Chambers USA, which identifies the world’s leading lawyers and law firms and she has also been included in various editions of The Best Lawyers in America. She is also ranked by Super Lawyers and listed in Who’s Who Legal Corporate Immigration.

Craig provides ethics advice to lawyers, represents lawyers in disciplinary matters, and practices immigration and nationality law at Dobson Law LLC.  He has a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Furman University and a Juris Doctor, cum laude, from New England School of Law.  During law school, he received CALI awards in both the Law and Ethics of Lawyering and International Business Transactions and served as Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of International and Comparative Law.  He previously served as Georgia UPL Liaison for the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) Georgia-Alabama Chapter and was appointed by the Supreme Court of Georgia to serve as Chairperson of the District 1 UPL Committee for the State Bar of Georgia from 2014 to 2017.  He is currently Chair of AILA’s National Ethics Committee and also a member of the Association of Professional Responsibility’s (APRL) Cross-Border Practice Subcommittee, which is working on proposed amendments to current ABA multi-jurisdictional practice rules.  Additionally, he is a member of New York City Bar Association’s Mindfulness & Wellbeing in Law Committee, AILA’s new lawyer well-being committee, and is Co-chair of the Law Practice Management Committee for AILA New York.  Craig is also the APRL liaison to the ABA Standing Committee on Public Protection in the Provision of Legal Services.  In October 2017, he became one of the first National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coaches.

Cyrus D. Mehta, a graduate of Cambridge University and Columbia Law School, is the Managing Partner of Cyrus D. Mehta & Partners PLLC in New York City. Mr. Mehta is a member of AILA’s Administrative Litigation Task Force; AILA’s EB-5 Committee; former chair of AILA’s Ethics Committee; special counsel on immigration matters to the Departmental Disciplinary Committee, Appellate Division, First Department, New York; member of the ABA Commission on Immigration; board member of Volunteers for Legal Services and board member of New York Immigration Coalition.  Mr. Mehta is the former chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Immigration Council and former chair of the Committee on Immigration and Nationality Law of the New York City Bar Association. He is a frequent speaker and writer on various immigration-related issues, including on ethics, and is also an adjunct professor of law at Brooklyn Law School, where he teaches a course entitled Immigration and Work.  Mr. Mehta received the AILA 2018 Edith Lowenstein Memorial Award for advancing the practice of immigration law and the AILA 2011 Michael Maggio Memorial Award for his outstanding efforts in providing pro bono representation in the immigration field. He has also received two AILA Presidential Commendations in 2010 and 2016.  Mr. Mehta is ranked among the most highly regarded lawyers in North America by Who’s Who Legal – Corporate Immigration Law 2019 and is also ranked in Chambers USA and Chambers Global 2019 in immigration law, among other rankings.

Jojo Annobil is the Executive Director of Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC) the country’s first and only fellowship program wholly dedicated to increasing access to counsel for low income immigrants. He previously served as Attorney-in-Charge of The Legal Aid Society’s city-wide Immigration Law Unit. Mr. Annobil is an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law where he co-teaches the Immigrant Defense Clinic.  He also serves as Special Counsel to the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division First Department’s Disciplinary Committee on immigration matters. Mr. Annobil is a graduate of Fordham Law School. 

Matthew L. Guadagno has been practicing immigration law since 1997.  He is a solo practitioner in Manhattan.  Mr. Guadagno’s practice focuses on deportation defense and federal litigation relating to immigration.  He has argued numerous cases in the federal courts that have resulted in precedent decisions.  He has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.  In the past, Mr. Guadagno has served on the Amicus Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association, the Advisory Committee to the Legal Action Center of the American Immigration Council, and the Advisory Committee to the Immigration Unit of Brooklyn Defenders.  In September 2019, Mr. Guadagno was listed in the New York Metro Edition of the publication Super Lawyers for the eleventh year in a row.  He is also AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell.  Mr. Guadagno regularly speaks at continuing legal education courses about immigration law.  Mr. Guadagno is an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School where he teaches a course on deportation defense that he created. 

Timothy Houghton serves Deputy District Director for the New York District since December of 2015.

Background Experience

Mr. Houghton has over 20 years of government service which began with legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) at the Garden City Office of the New York District in 1998.  He has his   held a variety of positions In United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

He began his federal service as a District Adjudications Officer at the Garden City Office of the New York District. In 2004, Mr. Houghton later became a Supervisory District Adjudication Officer in the Naturalization Unit. In 2007, he was assigned to the Adjustment of Status Unit where he served as supervisor until May 2009. In 2008, Mr. Houghton received the Federal Executive Board Award as Supervisor of the year for his work in the Naturalization Unit by organizing a more efficient manner to receive documents from customers. In May 2009, he became a Supervisor for the Newark District Office in the Adjustment of Status Unit where he served in that position until March 2010. In March 2010, Mr. Houghton was selected by New York District to serve as Section Manager for Adjudications 2. The Adjudication 2 Unit adjudicated multiple immigration applications and adhered to the Stokes Agreement.  In January of 2011, he was assigned as Section Manager for the Naturalization Unit. Mr. Houghton received the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; Distinguished Government Service Award on May 11, 2012. In May 2012, Mr. Houghton was selected as Field Office Director for the New York Queens Field office. In May 2014, Mr. Houghton was selected as the Field Office Director of New York Field office where he served until his recent appointment as the Deputy District Director in December 2015. Mr. Houghton received the Manager/Supervisor of the Year in 2017.

Born in New York City, Alexis S. Axelrad has almost two decades of experience in immigration and nationality law. Ms. Axelrad received her B.A. from the University of Maryland at College Park in 1994. After earning her J.D. from New York Law School, Ms. Axelrad was admitted to practice in New York in 1998.

Ms. Axelrad has been active in the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) since she began practicing law. Ms. Axelrad currently serves as an elected director of AILA National's Board of Governors and served as the Chair of the Vermont Service Center committee from June 2013 to June 2015. She currently serves as the Chair of AILA National’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Committee and was a member of AILA National’s USCIS Headquarters Benefits/Policy Committee for over a decade. Ms. Axelrad is a past chair of the New York Chapter of AILA and served in every capacity on the NY chapter's executive committee. She is currently the chair of the New York Chapter of AILA’s CBP Committee and a member of the District Director Committee for over ten years. Ms. Axelrad is also an elected member of the Board of Directors of the Executives Association of New York.

Ms. Axelrad was also the recipient of the AILA President's Commendation Award for Outstanding Service on the USCIS HQ liaison committee, June 2008-2010, 2014 and 2019. New York Super Lawyers has listed her in the 'rising stars' section of top immigration attorneys in New York in 2011 and 2012, and as a Super Lawyer from 2013 to present. She is recognized by Chambers & Partners USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business

Ms. Axelrad was the author of a quarterly column on immigration matters published in the New York Law Journal. Ms. Axelrad was the researcher and writer of US Immigration Laws: Working, Living and Studying in America (1999). Ms. Axelrad maintains a busy corporate and family based immigration practice with a particular emphasis on interaction with the various offices of Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department including USCIS, Department of State, and CBP.


In 1994, I graduated with a B.A. from Cornell University majoring in Government and concentration in International Relations.  In 1999, I graduated with a J.D. from Syracuse University School of Law.

I have been a Staff Attorney with the Attorney Grievance Committee since 2001.  I am presently a Principal Staff Attorney investigating and prosecuting professional misconduct by attorneys in the First Judicial Department where allegations vary from neglect of legal matters to escrow violations.  In addition, I have been designated to head up the investigation of attorneys practicing in the area of immigration law, who engaged in professional misconduct.  I am a member of the Katzman Study Group as well as a member of the Protecting Immigrants New York Task Force.

Karin Wolman is Principal of the Law Office of Karin Wolman, PLLC, serving businesses of all sizes, non-profit organizations and individuals, across industries from healthcare and the sciences, academia, finance and technology, to the performing arts and entertainment, fine and graphic arts and new media, culinary arts, fashion and beauty, architecture and design. Ms. Wolman is a frequent speaker at local and national conferences on topics in immigration law ranging from aliens of extraordinary ability to naturalization, for organizations including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Practising Law Institute, New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education, and New York State Bar Association. Ms. Wolman has been recognized among the top 5% of attorneys in the New York Metro area by SuperLawyers, and has a 10/10 “Superb” rating on Avvo. A graduate of Columbia University and UCLA School of Law, she worked at the Brooklyn Academy of Music when the O & P visa categories were first introduced. She has served since 2002 as moderator of the AILA InfoNet forum on O & P visas, as well as other forums, plus the Vermont Service Center liaison committee for AILA national and local committees for the New York chapter of AILA.

Noemi E. Masliah is the principal of The Masliah Firm PC in New York City. She has been engaged exclusively in the practice of immigration law since 1980 and has spoken and written frequently on a broad range of immigration topics. Her practice covers all categories of employment-based cases for both temporary and permanent visas. She also represents individuals in family-based immigration matters and citizenship applications. She has received several community awards for her activism in immigration reform, specifically in connection with the discriminatory impact of the US immigration laws on the LGBT community.  She served on Lambda Legal’s Board of Directors for many years. Ms. Masliah was a co-founder of Immigration Equality. Most recently, she has been involved in the sanctuary movement, helping establish an immigration clinic at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah where she is a Board Director. A long-time and active member of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association, Ms. Masliah served as a Trustee of the American Immigration Council.

David Grunblatt is a Partner at Proskauer Rose LLP, heading its Immigration Practice Group and is an authority on employer immigration compliance and employment-based immigration benefits.  He served as Chair of the New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and of its Vermont Service Center Liaison Committee.  He was formerly Chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Immigration and Nationality Law and was Chair of the Committee on Immigration and Nationality Law at the New York County Lawyers Association.  He lectures and writes extensively on the subject of Immigration and Nationality Law.