Today's post is dedicated to our client "Bertha." Bertha is a prototypical immigration client.
Bertha falls victim to a notario scam:
Bertha entered the U.S. without inspection 30 years ago. As is typical in the vulnerable immigration community Bertha fell victim to the predatory practices of a Notario. A Notario is an individual that is usually from the same ethnic or cultural background of the victims they scam to provide legal services without a license. This is known as the unauthorized practice of law. Notarios are known to make false promises of green cards and scam their victims to pay exorbitant fees for unfulfilled promises of lawful status. Bertha paid a Notario that she unfortunately trusted to help with her immigration status.
Bertha is ordered deported:
Unbeknownst to Bertha, the Notario filed an asylum application on her behalf. Her case ended up in front of an Immigration Judge who ordered Bertha deported. Bertha had no idea what the Notario did after she paid him.
Bertha's 30 year struggle:
As time went by Bertha lived her life. She married a U.S. citizen with whom she started having a family. Bertha did not learn that she was ordered deported until after her application to adjust status through her husband was denied. Bertha was now mired in the immigration vortex. But for the fact that she was ordered deported, Bertha was eligible to adjust through the now expired 245(i) waiver.
Bertha's 30 year struggle to obtain lawful status began. She kept falling victim to one scam after another. She trusted the wrong people and made bad choices under bad circumstances. Once Bertha was represented by a licensed lawyer, she was unable to move forward because the lawyer did not have the experience or know how to help her. Bertha kept pressing forward with other licensed lawyers only to face the same refrain "We can't help you" --- until I met her 3 years ago.
Bertha "I can help you:"
A few years ago our office chartered two buses to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in an immigration rally at the time that Comprehensive Immigration Reform had a chance of getting through Congress. I met Bertha on that bus ride. Bertha caught my ear and told me her compelling story. She had become an immigration advocate. She took her nightmare and used it as a platform to help other Mexican citizens that shared her experience. She became very involved in the Mexican Consulate and her name started being recognized throughout the Mexican community in New York and surrounding areas.
Bertha became known as an advocate who could make the right connections for people who needed help. She became a liaison for the city of Puebla, MX with its citizens in New York. Despite Bertha's altruism for her fellow Pueblanos she was mired in her own case that she thought was hopeless.
I gave Bertha my card and she quickly made an appointment to see me. Recalling her experience Bertha told me that when she came into the office I scared her. She said "Raymond you were tough. You said 'Tell me the truth. I know if you are lying. I represent all sorts of people from drug lords to mothers. I know if you are lying." Bertha looked at me in the eye and told me her story. I replied, "I can help you." We accepted Bertha's case pro bono. The Partners of our Firm agree to handle cases pro bono when their is a significant public benefit, regardless of the client's financial ability to pay. Bertha's case met our pro bono criteria.
Bertha wins her battle and obtains a green card:
Given our long time experience handling cases with DHS District Counsel in New York we have a reputation of advocacy and public service behind us. While it does not guarantee success it assures a client that at a minimum District Counsel will give us an audience and an opportunity to be heard with an open mind. District Counsel joined in our motion to reopen Bertha's case. Her order of deportation was vacated and she was able to adjust her status. Bertha's 30 year ordeal was over. She now has her lawful permanent residence through her loving and supportive husband who she married 30 years ago.
Bertha is reunited with her family in Puebla:
We recently joined Bertha to experience her reunion with her family in Puebla. She was invited to be recognized as a dignitary at Puebla's Cinco de Mayo celebration. Bertha would only attend if I attended with her. I did so humbly and with honor. During our visit we were received as dignitaries. I had the opportunity to meet the governmental leaders in Puebla and surrounding areas. Bertha was our guide and proudly walked everywhere with me by her side. Despite the fact that I am physically a lot bigger than Bertha she towers over me in her spirit and determination. She taught me about myself. Bertha showed me that love and passion control the outcome of a case.