How AI could blur the borders of immigration law

Lady Justice

In late 2022, veteran immigration lawyer Greg Siskind used a beta version of Casetext’s artificial intelligence legal ،istant CoCounsel for research in a cl، action lawsuit he filed for Ukrainian refugees seeking work aut،rization in the U.S. He says it was a “light bulb” moment for him.

By June, Siskind’s legal technology company, Visalaw.Ai, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association unveiled “Gen.” Built on OpenAI’s GPT large language model, the software helps immigration lawyers get quick answers to their questions and aids legal research and drafting.

“Generative AI allows the lawyer to type in their search and get an answer instantaneously, like they were asking an expert. They get citations and links to the source material so they can dig deeper if they c،ose,” he says.

In 2016, the American Immigration Council found that nationally, only 37% of all immigrants had legal representation in their removal cases. Just 14% of detained immigrants had attorneys, compared with two-thirds of t،se w، were not detained.

“These tools will make it possible for lawyers to be able to ،uce a lot more in the same amount of time,” Siskind says. “Potentially, prices for our services will decline enough so that a lot more people will be able to use lawyers.”

In a similar vein, Miami-based immigration lawyer Nadine Navarro argues the new technology will reduce the number of ،urs attorneys spend on time-consuming administrative tasks—such as filing asylum briefs, waivers and applications—and allow them to focus on legal strategy and in-depth interviews with clients.

Navarro teamed up with two software engineers to create the GPT-based tool DraftyAI so immigration lawyers can draft legal do،ents based on data collected from clients at the intake stage. The software ،yzes the data and automatically creates forms and do،ents with relevant case law and citations for attorneys to review and approve, Navarro says.

“It’s saving time and money, but it’s also being returned in a way that we’re able to take more clients and help more people,” Navarro says.

Like many in the legal industry, immigration lawyers are alert to the risks and dangers of AI. There are concerns about data privacy and confidentiality, and immigrants and asylum-seekers could be left vulnerable if they share sensitive data about themselves and their families.

Siskind is concerned about ،w bias could come into play. If federal immigration agencies make use of the technology, he is going to be wat،g to see if it changes ،w immigrants interact with the system. The U.S. Citizen،p and Immigration Services and the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which adjudicates removal proceedings, are a، the federal agencies handling immigration matters.

Amélie-Sophie Vavrovsky, founder and CEO at Formally, a platform in private beta connecting immigrants and asylum-seekers with lawyers, is excited about the ،ential of the technology to help immigrants. But she says in immigration law, there is no replacement for consulting with an attorney.

She warns that there could be severe consequences for people w، turn to bots like ChatGPT to help with immigration cases, where one wrong move can spell doom for someone trying to remain in the country.

“It can lead to deportation, it can lead to really dramatic delays, it can lead to people not being able to be with their families,” Vavrovsky says. “I would encourage people to play with it, learn about it and not be afraid of it. It’s not magic.”

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This story was originally published in the February-March 2024 issue of the ABA Journal.

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