James Joseph Orlow, 82, of Ardmore, an immigration lawyer in Philadelphia for a half-century, died Thursday, Aug. 23, of cardiac arrest at Lankenau Medical Center.

James Joseph Orlow in Navy uniform.
Courtesy of the family
James Joseph Orlow in Navy uniform.

He was a partner in various law firms for 57 years, but the high point of his career was in 1983, when he became a partner in Orlow, Fuller, Rubin & Steele, a firm with offices in five cities, including Philadelphia.

In numerous cases, especially during the 1980s, Orlow Fuller challenged the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service on behalf of a client. The federal agency is now U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Starting in 1965, Mr. Orlow limited his practice to immigration and citizenship issues, and frequently accepted very complex referral cases from other lawyers, according to an online biography.

He never retired, his family said. "He was negotiating to identify the next generation of immigration lawyers," said son Daniel.

Both of his parents, Abram Orlow and Lena Orlow Ginsburg, had been immigration lawyers in Philadelphia. Their law firm, Orlow & Orlow PC, was founded in 1928. Both served as president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, as their son would do in 1974.

Even at age 82, Mr. Orlow maintained an active practice, representing clients in immigration court, and continuing to mentor new leaders, said the Immigration Lawyers Association.

"All of us in the Philadelphia chapter have at least one 'Jim story' of how he helped strategize an impossible case, taught an important lesson, or just encouraged us to keep up the fight against injustice," the group wrote in a statement.

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Orlow graduated from Central High School in 1952. He received a bachelor's degree in economics from the Wharton School in 1956 and a degree from the Harvard Law School in 1959.

That same year, he enlisted in the Navy. He served in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, the law arm of the Navy, and attained the rank of captain. He was based at Port Deposit, Md., and later at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

He was a longtime board member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Mr. Orlow enjoyed woodworking and model trains. He sailed in the Chesapeake Bay, serving as captain of a charter boat for a family cruise.

"He taught us a lot, not just how to plot a course and tie knots, but how to work as a team," his children said.

He was a longtime member of the Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El Chavurah Minyan in Wynnewood, a lay-run group within the synagogue.

Mr. Orlow was very reserved. "He did not express emotions easily with words, but he had a fantastic twinkle in his eye," his children said. "He had a way of looking at people and connecting."

During the Vietnam War, he was active in Narberth Neighbors for Peace and conducted training sessions on how to file for conscientious objector status.

In addition to his son, Mr. Orlow is survived by his wife, Eva Katz Orlow; children Arielle O. Hendel, Michael Paasche-Orlow, and Rabbi Avi Orlow; 14 grandchildren; and a niece and nephew.

Services with full military honors were Sunday, Aug. 26.

Memorial donations may be made to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 2100 Arch St., Philadelphia Pa. 19103, or via www.hiaspa.org.