Our 35th Anniversary


Dallas, TX – On March 31, 2013 the oldest immigration law firm in North Texas will celebrate its 35th anniversary. The law firm of Tidwell, Swaim & Associates, P.C. (“TSA”) was founded on March 31, 1978 by Samuel M. Tidwell, a former Border Patrol Agent and Immigration Service Officer. Following graduation from the University of Texas Law School, Sam worked briefly in Dallas for another immigration attorney before opening TSA. The Professional Corporation was originally named the Law Firm of Samuel M. Tidwell and Associates, P.C. and changed to the Law Firm of Tidwell, Swaim and Associates, P.C. in 1992. Since that time the firm has successfully represented over 40,000 immigration clients including corporations, start-up businesses and investors; employers and their employees; families; churches and other religious organizations; and other individuals in all aspects of U.S. immigration law. Tidwell, Swaim is one of the few remaining full-service immigration law firms in the U.S. which practices in every area of immigration law.

The immigration world in 1978 was much simpler, and much smaller, than it is today. All immigration cases in North Texas were processed at the Immigration Service’s office in the Federal Building in downtown Dallas on Commerce Street. Every morning around 6:00 a line would begin to form which would provide the Immigration Service with all of the cases it would handle that day. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, freezing temperatures or oppressive heat, if your case had to be processed that day your only choice was to stand in that line. Once inside the Federal Building, after an hour or two wait, your day-long processing would begin on the bottom floor and ultimately end on one of the upper floors with an actual Immigration Officer. Every type of immigration case was handled this way, from an E-2 investor seeking to start a business in the U.S., to an H-1 engineer to a married couple to someone simply seeking to extend their visitor’s status. Very little processing was handled by mail (and certainly not email!) so attorneys had to be present almost every day at the Immigration Service’s office to represent their clients.

By 1987 the Immigration Service started to expand its services and activities by creating nation-wide service centers which received petitions and applications by mail. This coincided with an enormous increase in the responsibilities of the Service since the Employer Sanctions Program initiated in 1986 required every company to be monitored for the immigration status of its employees. As we know now, the system has completely reversed so that today it is very difficult to speak to an Immigration Officer in person, or at least one that can be helpful. It is safe to say that the immigration process over the last thirty-five years has gone from a rarely-discussed topic which impacted very few Americans to an issue of national, and some cases international, importance.

Some of the most successful and respected immigration lawyers in Texas started their immigration careers at Tidwell, Swaim. This includes Craig Miley, Richard Fernandez and Elise Healy in Dallas; Brian Bates in Houston; and Maggie Murphy in Austin. The firm has been recognized by many community organizations, universities and colleges, and business organizations for its contributions to the immigration process.

Many of the firm’s accomplishments relate to its innovative use of technology and resources. Beginning in 1980 the firm expanded the use of paralegals which at the time was a relatively new occupation.  Prior to the widespread use of computers, the firm maintained a ratio of three or four paralegals per attorney. This allowed the firm to generate the forms and applications required by the immigration process at a much higher rate while maintaining competitive prices for clients. In 1987 the firm installed one of the first unified computer systems (does anyone remember Wang?) which further enhanced the firm’s ability to efficiently prepare and manage cases. Since that time the firm has continued to utilize the latest in technology to provide the highest level of client service at reasonable prices.

Sam’s original vision remains true today and the firm continues to handle cases in every area of immigration law. TSA represents Fortune 500 companies and their employees as well as individuals who face deportation proceedings. All of the attorneys associated with the firm have been trained in every aspect of U.S. immigration law and can be considered true “immigration attorneys”. Every attorney who has worked for the firm for at least five years has become Board Certified in Immigration Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

The firm has been at the forefront of all of the major immigration issues since its founding in 1978. From the Iranian student crisis of 1979 through the amnesty program that began in 1986 as well as the significant changes in immigration law in 1990 and 1996, the firm has been at the forefront of innovative solutions to new immigration issues. Tidwell, Swaim is now preparing for what should become the next major change in immigration law as we await action by Congress and the President on immigration reform.

Beginning in the early 1990’s, the U.S. economy began a dramatic transition as technology became increasingly important to all aspects of American life. This required a tremendous increase in the number of technology-related jobs and, in turn, people to fill those jobs. The immigration process shifted dramatically to emphasize the employment of foreign workers with the necessary skills to drive the new economy. Companies large and small needed ways to manage the employees in the immigration process so at this point the firm began assisting companies with creating their internal immigration policies and procedures. In fact, companies such as Texas Instruments, Bell Northern Research (BNR), Erickson, others had their original immigration processing managed by the firm and ultimately hired their own in-house attorneys and paralegals for immigration processing. The firm also assisted start-up companies such as i2 Technologies, Intervoice, and Perot Systems with establishing their internal immigration policies and procedures. This type of planning on a company-wide basis remains just as important today, if not more so, as technology and international business continue to drive our economy. Throughout this shift in emphasis to the business and employment aspects of immigration law, the firm was led by David Swaim who became the Managing Partner in 1991. David had joined the firm in 1985 as a Law Clark and had worked in all aspects of immigration law prior to becoming Managing Partner. Sam Tidwell passed away in 1992 but he left behind the largest full-service immigration law firm in north Texas with the most experienced paralegal and administrative staff in addition to the attorneys that he had personally trained.

In addition to successfully processing over 40,000 cases, TSA has been one of the most active in the United States in challenging the government’s interpretation of the law as well as its implementation. In 1982 the firm challenged the Immigration Act’s prohibition against the entry of “homosexuals” to the U.S. This was one of the first cases involving a gay man who was denied entry to the country and ultimately was decided in the U.S. Supreme Court. Although that case upheld Congress’ ability to exclude gays and lesbians from the U.S., it ultimately resulted in changes to the Immigration Act. The firm has also challenged the Immigration Service’s actions regarding the denial of immigration benefits to its corporate and institutional clients including federal court cases on behalf of Bell Northern Research (BNR), Texas Instruments and Texas A&M University. In addition, the firm has challenged government action in federal court on behalf of students at the University of North Texas and over 50 individuals over the past 35 years. The firm currently has three pending cases in federal court which not only seek to protect the rights of its clients but also have public policy ramifications:

  • A challenge to the Dallas District Office’s policy of videotaping marriage interviews and using those tapes later to deny marriage petitions without providing the husband and wife with a copy of the videotape or a transcript.
  • A challenge to the Department of State’s practice of denying investor visas without any meaningful explanation for the legal basis for the denial.
  • A challenge to the Immigration Service’s practice of denying naturalization cases by placing the applicant in removal proceedings while issuing the denial.

Tidwell, Swaim & Associates looks forward to the next thirty-five years and the challenges its clients will face in U.S. immigration law and practice. The vision of Sam Tidwell remains true today as it was in 1978: that every client from the biggest employer to the individual standing alone against the government receives the highest quality immigration law expertise at a fair price. For more information, please call 972-385-7900.


Sam opens the original law firm on Maple Avenue in 1978

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