Charles Foster - Celebrating 50 Years

For this video we produced for Foster LLP's 50th Anniversary, we had the honor of interviewing Chairman Charles Foster.  Watch as we hear his thoughts on how his firm became one of the leading global immigration law firms in the field and how his work has influenced immigration policy for our country.


In 1973, it was very different. First of all, there was probably literally less than a handful of practitioners. No one had what I would call an immigration firm. But when I started my own practice in '73 with Harry Tindall, by then I realized that immigration would give me the opportunity to do what I really always thought I would do, to interface with an international clientele, because by definition every client was going to be a foreign national.

I never specialized in any particular area of immigration law for two reasons. Initially because any immigration business was better than anything else, so I took in anything that related to immigration. But also for another very basic reason as I've told attorneys year in, year out in this firm, we want to do everything because your immigration clients do not come in neat packages. Your corporate client that you're qualifying on an employment base issue can have an issue that could make that person subject to detention.

I think to be a good immigration lawyer and to be well rounded, you've got to have experience in every aspect. And along those lines, I believed in that message so much that I initiated and developed board certification standards for immigration and nationality lawyers, and that never existed before. The firm grew and became the largest immigration firm in Houston and in the state of Texas for several reasons. A key piece of legislation-- Lyndon Johnson, who I technically worked for, passed and signed the '65 Immigration Act, but the key provisions went into effect in '68.

What did the '65 Act do? It opened the world up to legal immigration. When the law changed, all of a sudden there was going to be a whole new body of individuals trying to immigrate to the United States.

And so as this global economy grew, all of a sudden, these big firms, they weren't touching immigration. They didn't understand it, but they knew that I did, and so I was referred-- I was the go-to attorney to have these corporate clients referred to me when they begin to do what? To expand internationally.

I had the opportunity early on to change the practice of immigration law. So you had to be a member of the Association of Immigration and Nationality Lawyers, which was essentially a New York organization. One day I became president, changed the name to the American Immigration Lawyers Association. We grew that organization from a New York-centric into really a dynamic national organization.

The second thing that I'm proudest of when I was recommended by the University of Texas School of Law to a young super-- who would become a superstar ballet dancer from China who had been sent here as part of the very first cultural exchange between the People's Republic of China and Houston to represent him when he decided he wanted to stay. I'm here to make sure he gets to do what he wants to do, and obviously, got him released. So that would be a highlight only because that's what I call immigration magic, and people still call me from all over the world thinking I can do immigration magic for them.

The other thing that I was proud of is '86 I was asked by Governor Mark White to chair a Texas task force on immigration so that Texas would have a input into what was being debated in Congress, a big, broad-based, comprehensive immigration reform. I don't think you'll find anyone that has actually given a speech to 25 members of Congress, which I did on immigration policy.

The first time I ever worked for a president, or I would say a would-be president, was George W. Bush, governor of Texas. When I worked for these various presidential candidates, it was like a doctor selling good medicine. What I said and advised, it made me no different who that candidate was. I was selling the same policy that came to be known as comprehensive immigration reform that I started working on. And the very first days when then-Governor Bush asked me to advise him, and he told me he wanted a grand bargain with Mexico, what I advocated is a legalization program combined with a viable, workable, temporary workers program, more visa numbers for highly skilled professionals, more effective border enforcement using more technology than 18 or 10th century technology like a big wall.

The biggest success of the firm is just continuity. That very few firms, for one reason or another, they don't last, they break up. The vision for the firm's future is what it's always been-- a diverse firm in terms of practice, in terms of personnel. We hire highly motivated people. Hopefully, they share my vision about how privileged it is to be able to represent international clients from all over the world with interesting stories, with interesting problems. In immigration, it's always a win-win, positive thing.

My biggest legacy-- and I've thought about it-- is for the firm to survive. I think I would like for the firm to keep on going, getting bigger and better in every way.