Many friends ask what exactly I do as an immigration attorney and what kind of clients I meet and help. One thing I love about my job is that I get to handle a wide variety of different cases with people from all over the world. Though the cases may be factually different, nearly all of my cases are common in that they involve individuals with compelling cases that deserve compassionate and sensible solutions. Here is a sampling of a few of my recent consultations (the names and countries have been changed to conceal identities):
1. A young woman from El Salvador was brought into the United States ten years ago by her family when she was 16. She is married to an emotionally and physically abusive U.S. citizen who constantly threatens to call immigration if she does not comply with his demands. The husband threatens to have her deported and separated from their young child. He controls the money completely and uses that as a tool to control her as well. The woman is scared of her husband, and what immigration might do to her if she leaves him and he follows through on his threats.
2. A Montessori teacher from Mongolia with several degrees and certificates in education is here on a temporary visa that is going to expire this year. She has an offer of employment from a school and wants to know what visa she could change to that would allow her and her family to remain in the U.S. for a longer period of time since there is a shortage of qualified Montessori teachers.
3. A husband and wife from a Middle Eastern country converted to Christianity and fear for their lives in their home country because of their new religion. Their family does not know of their conversion. They fear that they will be targets of torture, persecution and possibly death at the hands of their government and possibly even family if they return.
4. The owner of a large construction and equipment company in Mexico looking to expand his company into the U.S. in order to move here with his family. The man and his family have become targets of organized crime because of their wealth. His daughters were kidnapped and held for ransom. He receives threats daily. He wants more than anything to keep his family safe, even though it would mean leaving a country he loves for a period of time. He is willing and able to invest money in the U.S. to establish his company here, or to purchase an existing company.
5. A young man from Guatemala came to the U.S. at age 14 with his uncle. His parents could not support him and he was starving in Guatemala. He went straight to work rather than to school, so that he wouldn’t be a burden to his uncle’s family. He does not have any proof that he was in the U.S. until he was about 17. About one year ago when he was at his construction job, scaffolding collapsed and the young man fell and suffered injuries that left him a paraplegic. Shortly before his accident the young man popped up on immigration’s radar after he was arrested for driving without a license. He is waiting for a court date before an immigration judge and faces deportation to Guatemala.
6. Another young man, this time from Peru, came to the U.S. with his family when he was 16. His dad was a permanent resident at the time and filed immigration paperwork for the entire family in 1995. Each of the young man’s siblings received status through their father, but by the time immigration was able to approve their cases, my potential client had “aged out” by turning 21, and was told he would have to wait. Now, 20 years later this man wants to see if it is time for him to get his green card through his father. He has never been back to Peru and hardly speaks Spanish.
I love my job. The cases are so personal and there is often so much riding on them. At the same time, being an immigration attorney can be devastatingly frustrating because you become so invested in the cases, but are not always able to help people. Fortunately the law allows me to help most of the people in the situations described above, but not all of them. All are deserving of some reprieve yet at least one of the people described above has no way of changing their situation.