New York, NY – Leon Wildes, a renowned immigration lawyer famous for his yearslong battle in the 1970s to prevent the deportation of John Lennon and secure his permanent residency in the United States, has passed away at the age of 90. Wildes, a graduate of New York University School of Law, co-founded the law firm Wildes & Weinberg in 1960 and later became the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. His son, Michael Wildes, an immigration attorney and the Mayor of Englewood, N.J., confirmed the news of his father’s death, stating that he had been in declining health after a series of strokes.
Leon Wildes originally met Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono in 1972, when they sought his assistance in extending their visas. What began as a routine matter turned into a complex legal battle thanks to Wildes’ resourcefulness and the political climate of the time. By uncovering a loophole in the immigration drug law and showcasing a little-known government policy, Wildes successfully delayed and eventually overturned Lennon’s deportation order. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s interest in Lennon waned after President Richard Nixon’s resignation, leading to a reversal of fortunes for the musician.
Despite facing many challenges, Wildes fought tirelessly on Lennon’s behalf. He even enlisted the support of notable figures such as Norman Mailer and Gloria Swanson to testify at a final hearing, which ultimately resulted in Lennon receiving his green card in July 1976. The legacy of Lennon’s case would have a lasting impact, shaping future immigration policies, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by President Barack Obama.
In addition to his work on the Lennon case, Wildes remained a dedicated immigration lawyer for decades. He also served as an adjunct professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law for over 30 years. Wildes’ contributions to the field of immigration law were widely recognized, and he received several honors for his excellence in teaching and advancing the practice.
Leon Wildes is survived by his third wife, Alice Goldberg Wildes, as well as two children, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. As an immigrant himself from a small Pennsylvania community with a Jewish background, Wildes had a personal connection to the struggles faced by his clients. His commitment to justice and his impact on immigration law will be remembered for years to come.
Sources have reported that Leon Wildes, the prominent immigration lawyer who famously fought for John Lennon’s residency in the U.S., has died at the age of 90. Wildes, a graduate of New York University School of Law, co-founded the law firm Wildes & Weinberg and served as president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. His son, Michael Wildes, who is also an immigration lawyer, confirmed his father’s passing and expressed pride in his legacy. Leon Wildes’ efforts on behalf of Lennon not only changed the musician’s fate but also influenced immigration policies.