Joseph A. Vail is an associate clinicalprofessor & supervising attorney at theUniversity of Houston Law Centerimmigration clinic.
CARLOS JAVIER SANCHEZ:
June 19, 2008, 10:36PM
Joseph Vail, immigration lawyer
He was also a judge, a professor and an advocate for immigrants' rights
By JAMES PINKERTON
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Joseph A. Vail, a well-known Houston immigration lawyer, judge and professor for nearly threedecades, died Tuesday at his family home near Philadelphia.Vail, 56, directed the University of Houston Law Center's Immigration Law Clinic, developing it into one of the largest in the nation afterfounding it in 1999.Vail, ill with cancer, lectured on the last day of class in late April before traveling to Chicago to seek alternative medical treatment, saidAnne Chandler, the clinic's interim director.''He gave every moment he had to educating, advocating and serving the community," Chandler said. ''That was just his style."Friends and colleagues say Vail's work at the clinic was perhaps the most significant accomplishment in a career that included service as afederal immigration judge, running a private immigration practice and providing legal assistance to immigrant advocacy groups. In 1994,Vail was recognized by the State Bar of Texas for the free legal services he provided to indigent clients.As a volunteer with AmeriCorps VISTA, the anti-poverty federal public service program, Vail assisted attorneys in the early 1980s wholitigated the landmark Plyler v. Doe Supreme Court case that established the right of undocumented children to attend public schools.''Helping immigrants was his main focus, but he'd do anything for anybody," said Nancy Falgout, a Houston attorney who served in VISTAwith Vail in the 1980s. ''Nobody ever heard him say no if you asked him to work."Falgout and others said Vail influenced many clinic students to choose a career in immigration law.Vail helped organize Houston attorneys in 1987 to defend more than 70 Haitian refugees who were transferred here from a Miami detentioncenter, Falgout recalled. The effort led to the creation of the Houston Refugee Pro Bono Project.Gordon Quan, a former Houston City Council member, described Vail as a saint whose conscience forced him to step down as a federalimmigration judge, a post he held from 1995 to 1999, to open the UH immigration clinic. And he did it despite a large cut in salary.''The guy gave up his judgeship because he felt the laws were unjust — I mean, how many people do that?" said Quan, an immigrationattorney. ''He felt he was being a tool for the government in an unfair system, and everybody respected him for doing what he thought wasmorally correct."Before his death, Vail was nominated by 108 lawyers in Houston and across the state for an immigration award issued annually by theNational Lawyers Guild.''For his whole life, Joe was about justice," the June 12 nominating letter states. ''His heart, mind and soul have been about giving a voice tothose who have been silenced and those who are powerless."Vail, of the Philadelphia suburb of Havertown, is survived by two daughters, Tanya Clark and Aleyda Alearenga; brothers James Vail, HarryVail and Michael Vail; and sisters Bernice Liberato, Francina Miley and Ann Garrison.A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Sacred Heart Church in Havertown. Contributions in his memory can be made to theProf. Joseph A. Vail Memorial Foundation, University of Houston Law Center, 100 Law Center, Houston, TX 77204-6060.
oseph Vail, immigration lawyer | Chron.com - Houston Chroniclehttp://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/deaths/5847480.html1 of 26/20/2008 9:28 AM