A Compassionate Guide Through the Twists and Turns of Immigration Law
As a law school intern, Will Hummel worked to enforce immigration laws.
He researched, studied legal precedent and even argued cases for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division. He often felt sympathy for people fighting deportation and wished the laws offered more flexibility—and humanity.
It was an invaluable and enlightening experience that paved the path to his dream job: Helping people achieve their dream of American citizenship.
Hummel’s clients have included a young father stuck in Mexico while his anxious family waited in the United States for his return; a child in Ethiopia who needed a visa to come to the United States for urgent medical treatment, and a senior multi-national company executive who couldn’t get back into the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He’s represented people seeking work visas and corporations hiring highly skilled international employees. He’s also helped many Davidson students, faculty and staff members with educational visas, work permits, and the often-rocky path to citizenship.
“He’s someone who’s behind the scenes, in his very humble way, doing really important and fabulous things for this community,” said Chris Alexander, Davidson’s director of parent giving. “The Will Hummel we see today is on the trajectory he started at Davidson. He wants to help people—often with language barriers—who come to this country or were already here and face legal challenges to obtain rights so many American citizens take for granted.”
Alexander, former director of the Dean Rusk International Studies Program, met Hummel during his senior year in 2006. After Hummel graduated, Alexander hired him as a Dean Rusk fellow. His duties included supporting a wide range of programs that internationalized Davidson’s campus.
“He was that rare college student who planned to go to law school and knew exactly what kind of law he wanted to practice. He was passionate about immigration,” Alexander said. “He was always well organized and very thoughtful. He was a strategic thinker who also was very sensitive to other people’s feelings.”
Strategic thinking has been especially crucial to navigate President Donald J. Trump’s often controversial immigration policies. The pandemic has put a new level of stress on international students. ICE recently ordered that they must attend at least one in-person class to stay in the United States. Davidson supported a Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) lawsuit opposing the order, which the administration walked back. Currently, first-year international students must have at least one hybrid (a combination of in-person and online) course to study on American campuses.
With anxiety levels high, Hummel joined Davidson’s international students and college staff for a virtual town hall meeting. He laid out options for students, such as which countries they could quarantine in before entering the United States. It’s a head-spinning array of shifting regulations.
“You could go to a third country, say Mexico, and you’d have to prove you’d quarantined for 14 days there. Make sure you keep plane tickets and hotel receipts as proof—but Trump could tomorrow say you can’t come in,” Hummel advised the group. “Serbia, Turkey and South Korea are options—Canada isn’t right now—they’re not letting visitors in.’’
Thomas Greene, Davidson’s director of international student programs, says that he’s worked with immigration attorneys often over the past two decades, and “Ninety-five percent don’t know F1 (non-immigrant student visa) regulations.”
Hummel is among the five percent that does, Greene said.
“The first time I met him I realized right away that he knows his stuff,” Greene said. “He’s very student-centered, he treats them like someone would who works in student life here. He’s got a vested interest in their future, he wants the best outcome for them. He’s knowledgeable, compassionate and has a commitment to using his skills to give back to Davidson.”
Hummel said he thrives on the constant education and frequent trouble-shooting immigration law requires.
“It’s always changing and it’s mentally challenging,” he said. “You’ve got to stay in the know to give people the best representation possible. Every case is different, but it’s so rewarding when you can help somebody.”
Many Davidson students have benefited from his counsel—even at pro bono or reduced rates when they can’t afford to pay.
Alexander remembers fear and anxiety after the 2016 presidential election, which Trump won on a platform that included ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program established by his predecessor, President Barack Obama.
DACA protected nearly 800,000 undocumented young adults, who’d come to the United States as children, from deportation. DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” had to renew their paperwork every two years.
“For some of our students, this was really dire. They were literally in tears and afraid that law enforcement was going to come on Davidson’s campus and remove them,” Alexander said. “Will was a rock, he was calm and unflappable, with a gentle, pragmatic demeanor. That’s what our students needed. Will was more than an immigration attorney, he was a member of the family.”
Bruna Siqueira-Davis ’17, a QuestBridge Scholar from Colorado, needed a North Carolina lawyer to help file her DACA renewal paperwork. Her family had moved to the United States from Brazil when she was nine. Three years later her father, who had a visa to work in the United States, died suddenly of a heart attack. The family wasn’t able to renew the visa.
“A friend of mine who was also undocumented told me about Will,” Siqueira-Davis said. “I reached out to him—and he sat down with me for about 45 minutes, going through everything.”
Siqueira-Davis, a digital communications strategist at Davidson, has since married and is pursuing permanent citizenship. She’s represented by the Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm, where Hummel is a partner.
“He’s just a very nice, warm, good-hearted person,” Siqueira-Davis said. “He’s not my lawyer anymore, but when I see him he always asks about my situation—you can tell he really cares.”
More Than a Job
Hummel is a longtime volunteer for the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte, providing free clinics and individual help for people with immigration issues. His wife, Katie Hummel ’06, says he gives clients his all.
“He takes great pride in giving people their best options, and sometimes it’s hard because it’s not always good news,” she said. “One of the things that frustrates him most is when he meets someone who’s been given bad advice. He never forgets that he’s dealing with people’s lives, and wants so much to help.”
The couple became friends during their first year at Davidson and began dating late in their last.
“At first it was kind of casual, but then the joke was on us, and it became serious,” Katie Hummel said. “I remember telling my mom that he was one of the kindest people I’d ever met.”
They dated long-distance while she went to graduate school at Wake Forest University and he attended The University of Florida’s law school. They found out on their honeymoon that he’d passed the bar exam.
Katie Hummel is now a CPA at Wells Fargo specializing in regulatory relations. The couple has two young children.
“He works a lot but he also compartmentalizes really well,” Katie Hummel said. “He’s very loving and even-keeled, he doesn’t let work stress diminish family time.”
Immigration law has never been just a job for him, she says. She’s seen him spend countless hours pulling out every stop he can; in some cases calling Congress members and government officials to appeal for help.
“He plays such a vital role in the community, and in our country,” Katie Hummel said. “He’s doing exactly what he was meant to do, and what he does is so important. I can’t imagine him ever doing anything else.”
Will Hummel started college thinking he wanted to be a pharmacist.
He loved science classes at Davidson, but as his first year unfolded, began gravitating toward history and political science. College increased his interest in national and world events. He majored in political science and minored in Spanish, bolstering his skills during a semester abroad in Spain, and a summer studying in Argentina.
He became fascinated by the strong pull the United States has for people from other countries. He saw the struggles they’d go through to get to America, often to escape extreme poverty, violence and governmental corruption.
By his second year in college, he knew he wanted to become an immigration attorney. The ICE internship gave him the government’s perspective of the importance of regulations and border security.
He enforced laws against some people he says should have been deported. He also felt great sympathy for hard-working people desperate to stay in the United States. It’s a system with many flaws, he said.
Hummel doesn’t think lawmakers will pass comprehensive immigration reform in the near future because of today’s extremely partisan political environment. He believes it will continue as a piecemeal approach, with much at stake in the upcoming presidential election.
He wishes lawmakers who take a harsh anti-immigration stance could see and know the people affected by policies that change so frequently.
“One thing they forget is how personal immigration law is,” Hummel said. “They forget the impact that changes can have for someone who’s in the middle of the process. It affects their lives, their families in almost every way.”
- September 1, 2020
- Political Science
- Alumni and Family Engagement
- News Headlines