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Immigration Practice Group

The Immigration Practice Group attended a national training on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions, which was organized by the Defending Immigrants Partnership. This training is an annual event that brings together practitioners from every state of the country to discuss what public defenders are doing within our organizations to protect the complex rights of immigrants in criminal cases. Since the landmark decision of Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010), most jurisdictions have been trying to urgently meet these obligations. Since Padilla, the Wisconsin State Public Defender's Office (SPD) formed its Immigration Practice Group.

A challenge to adequately addressing immigration consequences seems to be getting attorneys to recognize their obligations under Padilla. For many years in Wisconsin, criminal defendants have been warned at the plea colloquy that they may be deported as a result of their conviction. See Wis. Stat. Sec. 971.08(1)(c). This general admonition is clearly insufficient under Padilla.

The Immigration Practice Group's main objective is to assist our attorneys in understanding the immigration consequences their clients face upon conviction of a crime. This analysis is often complex and is specifically tailored to each client through completing the Immigration Practice Group Questionnaire, which screens for potential immigration consequences.

The Immigration Practice Group has made connections with immigration resources through the Defending Immigrants Partnership, which connects the SPD's practice group to many well respected national immigration organizations focusing on immigration consequences in criminal convictions. There are organizations within Wisconsin that we have connections with, as well. In addition, the UW Law School’s Immigration Justice Clinic has started a relationship with the SPD, allowing the SPD to refer clients to the clinic for representation in immigration proceedings or to assist with complex Padilla advice.

The Immigration Practice Group website provides resources to staff and private attorneys. This website lists contact information for the Immigration Practice Group members, as well as immigration consequences resources. The SPD currently has an immigration listserv for staff attorneys, which has recently become a message board. The Immigration Practice Group uses this message board to give staff attorneys broader access to immigration consequences advice from the Immigration Practice Group. The Immigration Practice Group is available to assist attorneys in any case where your client is not a natural born citizen. There are currently three Immigration Practice Group coordinators to serve staff attorneys and private bar attorney throughout the state. They are fielding questions by SPD region. Please do not hesitate to reach out. 

Immigration Practice Group Coordinators


Kate Drury


Kate Drury became interested in immigration issues as an undergraduate student, triple majoring in Economics, International Affairs, and Spanish. She witnessed the push-pull factors influencing migration firsthand, living with members of a farming commune in southern Chile. Prior to law school Kate worked as a volunteer ESL teacher in the Milwaukee County jail, an immigration law secretary, a volunteer in VAWA/U-visa clinics, as well as a paralegal for the Central American Resource Center, located in Los Angeles, CA. When Kate attended law school she was a board member of the Latino Law Student Association, she took immigration law classes, and she volunteered by screening immigration detainees for potential relief in partnership with the National Immigrant Justice Center. Post-law school Kate has volunteered as a board member of the Community Immigration Law Center located in Madison, WI. Kate is a public defender who lives in Waupaca, WI, and is relatively competent at making her own tortillas.  


Melissa Nepomiachi



Melissa Nepomiachi graduated law school and joined the public defender's office in 2011. As the daughter of Argentine first generation immigrants, she always took an interest in working with immigrant communities. In college she majored in Political Science and Latin American Studies, during which she also studied abroad to Latin America to hone in on her Spanish language skills. Prior to law school she worked with as a Constituent Liaison in the Office of a New York City State Senator, providing services to underserved immigrant communities. At the University of Wisconsin Law School, she was a member of the Latino Law Student Association, took coursework in immigration law, and participated in several legal clinics including a Domestic Violence/U-Visa clinic and criminal defense clinics. Her knowledge at the intersection of criminal and immigration law is largely self–taught after working with non-citizen clients. She feels privileged to help others in the legal field develop their understanding of this complex and always changing area of law to better serve clients. In her free time, she likes spending time with her family, her dogs, going to concerts, and spending time outside.

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