Lawyers, Friends or Foes? For Immigrants, The Answer Might Surprise You

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“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

This fair bit of poetry was chosen out of thousands of possible lines to grace the Statue of Liberty. America is said by many to be the land of opportunity, where you can come no matter your station and through hard work and thrift, achieve the American Dream of home, hearth and prosperity.

Given it’s reputation, it is no surprise that America is a country built by immigrants. And yet despite our lofty ideals, we have an extremely checkered history with immigration and immigration law, particularly as it pertains to families. Family based immigration is more and more common as parents desperate for a better life for their children find ways, both legal and not so legal, to enter America. Despite many of these families’ willingness to contribute to society, family based visa status is extremely hard to come by, forcing many immigrants into underground living and exploitative jobs that involve high risk for low wages.

Because of the complex legal and economic issues attached to family based immigration and the struggle many immigrants face learning English, immigrants are one of the most vulnerable populations in America. Often, “migration to USA” was the end goal, and the learning curve of actually existing on American soil as an undocumented person proves treacherous. This can lead to injuries at work, medical problems, car accidents, and other dangers that immigrants involved in family based immigration feel ill-equipped to handle.

One vital resource that all people involved in family based immigration should be aware of is the lawyer. Consider the following real-world example: A Mexican fry cook gets third degree burns at his job after working an illegal shift, but is unsure of how to pay his medical bills. (Such accidents are far from uncommon; according to the National Center for Health Statistics, an estimated 31 million injuries occur that require medical care each year.) Because he doesn’t understand the safety net of attorney-client privilege or the commercials he sees on TV, he may not be aware that he is entitled to contact a personal or work related injury lawyer.

These lawyers represent their clients in court, often in association with damages and compensation due to a work related, unjust, or debilitating injury that could have been prevented. What’s more, a lot of lawyers don’t require a fee unless they win your case. Add to this the fact that most personal injury cases are settled out of court, and our fry cook is missing out on a valuable method of recourse that would put him swiftly back to work without the added stress and exposure of a trial.

Family based immigration is a risky enterprise. It is a jump into the unknown, and while there are no guarantees that every immigrant will find the better life that they seek in America, consulting a lawyer to learn their legal rights is a step in the right direction.

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