Litigation has always been for the nimble, but effective immigration lawyering today requires people like Christine Hernández, partner at the Denver firm that bears her name and president of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association (CHBA), to be downright acrobatic.
Federal policies implemented at warp speed can fundamentally change the law, sparking courtroom chaos. “It changes daily,” Hernández says. “You read the news and you’re like, ‘OK, what did the attorney general do today?’ It’s pretty exhausting to keep up with, but you have to. As soon as a new case comes out, the judges are going to hit you with it the next morning.”
Often juggling a caseload in the hundreds, Hernández and Associates, PC, specializes in crimmigration: removal defense cases in which the defendant faces both criminal and immigration charges. Hernández handles the immigration side, her husband, Arnulfo, manages criminal defense, and their 12-year-old firm’s 10 staff attorneys are split evenly by specialty. “We’ve been successful because we work hard and we understand our clientele,” Hernández says. “We’re also bilingual, and we want to do right by our community.”
The Richmond, Virginia, native brings that same motivation to CHBA, which was founded in 1977 and now boasts a membership of more than 500. Hernández started as education committee chair in 2016 and rose to president this year. Between meetings and after work, she squeezes in two to three hours each day to fundraise, establish legal and community partnerships, and nurture the next generation of Latino lawyers in the Centennial State.
“It’s important, with all the bullying and negativity that’s going around right now, to be there for Latino high school students and to give them hope to keep going,” Hernández says. “We’ve heard that a lot from law students, too. They’re glad that the Colorado Hispanic Bar exists so that they don’t feel alone or give up.”