Immigration has been a controversial topic in the United States for decades, and the issue remains at the forefront of political discourse. Every year, millions of people cross the border seeking better opportunities and a chance to build a new life. For them, the elusive American dream is very much real.
Yet, the reality of life as an immigrant in the US can be far more challenging than people expect. From navigating complex legal systems to overcoming language barriers, immigrants – both documented and undocumented – often face a range of hardships that can be difficult to overcome. In addition, recent political debates around immigration have created an environment of uncertainty and fear for many in these communities.
Immigration attorney Maria Mendoza has experienced first-hand the injustice and hardship immigrants go through every day. It’s one of the reasons why she made it her mission to become an attorney. Moreover, it is the reason why her The Mendoza Law Firm became a go-to destination for a large number of people looking for legal advice and assistance.
“My mom is from Mexico,” she says. “She immigrated to the United States and I grew up outside of El Paso, Texas. I could see very well how difficult it was for people who didn’t have documents.”
She says that immigrants to the United States face various challenges from the moment they step foot in the country. These can range from cultural differences to the difficulty of finding proper housing.
However, the most critical issue is related to employment opportunities. Despite hard work and dedication, immigrants continue to face significant challenges in the US job market. Discrimination is all too common, with many immigrants being excluded from basic labor and safety protections that U.S.-born workers are entitled to.
This is made worse by the fact that a large number of undocumented immigrants are also victims of trafficking or victims of domestic violence at the hands of their American spouses. Mendoza, who has been practicing immigration law for over 13 years, is often at the frontline of the fight for immigrant rights. She especially deals with victims of workplace harassment and also takes on clients whose cases fall under VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act).
The act is available to persons that have suffered domestic violence by a spouse who’s a US citizen or legal resident or on behalf of a US citizen child over the age of 21.
Mendoza maintains that immigrants, among them women in particular, are one of the most vulnerable groups in the American society. Their problems are overlooked or trivialized on an almost daily basis. This is one of the reasons why Mendoza’s firm doesn’t hesitate to approach their cases aggressively.
“I think the vast majority of the cases that we handle can be considered complex and difficult,” she says. “Many times people might have suffered abuse, which would entitle them to certain benefits under humanitarian visas.” In these sorts of cases, Mendoza and her team work hard to document their clients’ experiences carefully. Their aim is to build a solid, factual record and collect as much evidence as they can so that when they present the case in front of a court of law, they have greater chances of success.
Handling cases of human trafficking falls under the requirements of the so-called T visa.
“Human trafficking under current laws can be interpreted as someone who may be subject to certain forms of exploitation,” Mendoza explains. “For example, their boss doesn’t pay them or doesn’t pay for overtime. Sometimes, their bosses exploit the opportunity and give them a wage far below the minimum wage. On top of that, there is a huge number of people who are subjected to coercion or certain forms of abuse on the job.”
These cases require additional strategizing, from hiring a detective to do more extensive research to finding witnesses willing to speak out, either on or off the record. Mendoza’s team also has to investigate if the employer has had any record of civil or criminal fines or complaints that can be used to corroborate their client’s statement.
Mendoza’s commitment to her clients extends beyond legal representation, as she recognizes the serious emotional effects of abuse.
“The cases we work on are sensitive and can be quite nerve-racking. I know from experience that clients may not remember our exact words or actions, but they will always remember the emotional impact we had on them during our interactions. That’s why we strive to ensure that they go through the whole process as smoothly as possible,” she says.
By connecting her clients with qualified psychologists, she offers a unique and compassionate approach to healing and legal advocacy. In addition to providing valuable support for her clients’ well-being, these collaborations strengthen cases, leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of justice.
“Our job is to be our clients’ most zealous advocate,” Mendoza adds. “Their well-being is our well-being. As a child of an immigrant, I still believe that the American dream is alive and well. This is a beautiful country that really does allow people that work very hard to achieve the American dream. I very much believe in that. And so I want all of my clients to be able to have the American dream.”
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]