While the immigration debate tends to focus on laborers working illegally in America, attorneys such as Tawanda J. Edwards strive behind the clamor to help Greater Cincinnati companies hire coveted foreign workers for skilled and professional jobs.

Edwards is an associate at Frost Brown Todd who focuses her practice on immigration, helping employers navigate the thicket of federal visa requirements to bring here some of the world’s most talented people, including researchers, doctors, engineers and IT professionals.

“Cincinnati is a thriving place. We have a lot of companies, hospitals and universities in need of foreign workers. Universities not only attract workers but foreign students who want to go to work somewhere,” she notes.

Many of Edwards’ clients are vying to land a handful of the 65,000 H1-B visas issued annually by the United States for skilled workers. With businesses and institutions across the country competing for specialized foreign workers, employers cannot afford to make mistakes in the visa application process.

“We put the best petition forward as possible. There are so many nuances, and you really should have an attorney do it.”

Edwards, who lives in Westwood, graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 2000. She started her career practicing for the Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati and moved into family law at Katz, Greenburger and Nortan, where she worked until joining Frost Brown Todd in 2007.

She’s now in the final year of her four-year term as president of the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati. BLAC mentors potential and current law students, fosters interaction among black professional groups, hosts community forums on various legal concerns and awards scholarships.

African-Americans have come a long way in the profession since BLAC was founded in 1973. “In 1988, there were only two African-Americans in major law firms in Cincinnati,” Edwards points out. “Now there are many more. That is a direct result of African-Americans deciding to stay here — and also efforts of BLAC, the roundtable with the bar association and firms saying we believe in diversity.”

Edwards is a trustee at the Cincinnati Bar Association, Community Shares and the Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati.

A Cincinnati native, she plans to grow her practice with Frost Brown Todd and is striving to eventually make partner there.