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Michael Maggio loves a challenge. Whether asylum seekers or Fortune 500 companies are seeking his help, complex cases are his forte. “He saved my life at least twice,” says Russian banker Alexandre Konanykhin. And he’s not exaggerating. Two times, Konanykhin, the former head of Russia’s largest commercial bank, has faced imminent deportation. But back in Russia, he says, the Mafia had put out a contract on his life — an assertion backed by the FBI. So Konanykhin is happy to have Maggio on his side. “He has a brilliant mind. He immediately understands all the issues and sees through the clutter,” says Konanykhin. “I’m a great admirer.” In 1999, Maggio persuaded immigration Judge John Bryant to grant Konanykhin political asylum, thereby reversing an earlier decision. The government appealed, and in 2003 the Board of Immigration Appeals ordered Konanykhin deported to Russia, where he also faces fraud charges. But the case wasn’t over. In 2004 the board granted Maggio’s motion to reopen the case and sent it back to Bryant. “We’re in the exact same procedural place we were 10 years ago,” says Maggio. Two elderly Afghan immigrants have good reason to thank Maggio, too. In 2005 they were granted a one-year stay of deportation. The couple’s work permits had expired, and they were locked up pending removal. Maggio won them “deferred action status,” a seldom-granted provision based on humanitarian grounds. “I thrive on the complicated stuff,” Maggio, 59, says with relish. But he doesn’t spend all his time putting out these kinds of fires. Maggio, the founder of the D.C. immigration boutique Maggio & Kattar, handles immigration work for large corporate clients, among them Emerson Electric Co., which employs more than 100,000 people in 30 offices worldwide, and ATM manufacturer NCR Corp. “We can do the high-volume stuff much less expensively than the big firms,” Maggio notes, adding that his firm generally bills by the project, not by the hour. “We’ve set up a system to process routine matters as seamlessly as possible.” He also represents “a vast number of everyday folks,” who need assistance with visas or green cards or who want to bring family members to the United States. Other individual clients are decidedly less typical; Maggio describes them as people “who have everything they want in life except the ability to travel to the United States.” The U.S. government may deny or cancel someone’s visa if that person is, as Maggio puts it, “perceived by the government to be undesirable.” These clients, who hail from Brazil, Colombia, Italy, and elsewhere, tend to be highly successful businesspeople who have never been arrested but who have made enemies, he says. “They hire us to help with getting their visas restored,” Maggio explains, a process that he describes as complicated and time-consuming and that involves “rehabilitating their reputations.” Before he became a lawyer, Maggio held a variety of jobs — construction worker, teacher, lobbyist. At age 28 he enrolled in Antioch School of Law (since folded into the University of the District of Columbia’s law school). Antioch required students to live with a client family for two weeks. Maggio moved in with immigrants from El Salvador. It was, he says, “almost like predestiny.” He had found his calling. Immediately after graduation, in 1978, Maggio launched his own firm with fellow graduate David Goren. The move was made possible by a $25,000 grant from Antioch to train farm workers as paralegals. Students from the law school also worked in the firm’s immigration clinic. In his first year of practice, Maggio took perhaps his single most influential case: He began representing Dr. Joel Fil�rtiga and his daughter, Dolly. In 1976, Fil�rtiga’s 17-year-old son, Joelito, was tortured and killed by police in Paraguay, allegedly in retaliation for the father’s political activities. A few years later, Dolly, by then living in the United States, learned that Americo Norberto Pe�a-Irala, former inspector general of the Asunci�n police, had also come here. Maggio and co-counsel from the Center for Constitutional Rights sued Pe�a under the Alien Tort Claims Act in New York federal court. The case, Fil�rtiga v. Pe�a-Irala, became an international cause c�l�bre. In a landmark 1980 decision the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit found that torture by a government official anywhere in the world violates universal human rights and the official may be held accountable in U.S. court. In 1984 the Fil�rtigas won a judgment of $10.36 million. Over the years, Maggio’s firm has expanded to 11 lawyers plus another 30 support staff and specialists. His enthusiasm for his work has also grown. “After 28 years I’m actually more excited by the practice now,” says Maggio. “It’s been great fun and tremendously satisfying.”

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