America was founded on the principle of immigration. We were the original immigrants to this vastly beautiful country. Unfortunately, it is not as easy to obtain citizenship in the United States as it was for our founding fathers.

This past summer, through IUHPFL, I spent six weeks in Mérida, Mexico where I discovered how I wanted to use a career to help people in need. Through the program, we completed two, twelve hour days full of volunteer work. The Pueblo was a modern day Hooverville. Electricity and running water were a luxury no one could afford. Alcoholism ran rampant, and starving men, women, and children littered the streets as much as the trash did. Dirt was caked on their skin as most meandered around looking for shelter. The fortune ones owned a home; though it was a one-roomed house with wood siding and a dirt floor. The houses typically squeezed at least three families into the small box. The pueblo had never been what you would call a rich town— not in the sense of money. However— not all was bleak; the power of smiles and happiness overrode the disheveled pueblo. It was a town full of good Samaritans. The people of the pueblo were the kindest and most caring people I have ever met, and they had nothing. I encountered many people who commented how difficult it was to obtain a visa for the United States, even a simple vacation visa. They lamented how they wished they could come to the US, but it was not possible because of our strict regulations regarding immigration. It was during this summer abroad experience that I realized what I wanted to do. I wanted to help people legally gain entry into the United States as an Immigration Attorney.

On another personal note, one of my best friends has experienced the legal side of immigration. He illegally crossed the border into the United States. He was fifteen at the time and therefore he could not be deported when ICE detained them. Since then he has reunited with his father, who is here on political asylum, and has not accumulated so much as a speeding ticket. When he talks about his home country of Guatemala he cowers as he reminisces of the rampant gangs that run the streets and the constant fear he used to live in. He works six days a week and never complains, however, when his eighteenth birthday began to creep around he applied for citizenship. He had to commute two hours to appear in front of a judge, only to have the judge deny him citizenship. His body deflated as he realized he was going to have to go back— back to a world or death and destruction. Everything he had worked towards in building a life in America, two full-time jobs, graduating high school, keeping a steady girlfriend, was all going to mean nothing. His whole life was about to be uprooted. Again.

However, he continued to try and gain citizenship. At the end of the process, he was able to stay on a work visa. To this day, he still does not have citizenship, he keeps applying for different visas.

The purpose of an immigration attorney is to help people, like my friend, reach their dreams. Inside the safe cocoon of the United States, many citizens do not realize the exasperating process of trying to obtain citizenship or a simple visa. The role of an immigration attorney is to help alleviate the process. Without immigration attorneys, there would be no one to fight for the underdogs. The people, like my friend, seeking safety and a fresh start would be stuck in the perpetual cycle of terror.

According to Anjali Singhvi and Alicia Parlapian’s article, “Trump’s Immigration Ban: Who Is Barred and Who Is Not” (2017) states, “we are still fighting immigration, the most recent case is the immigration ban imposed by President Trump.” The ban restricts Syrian refugees from entering the US indefinitely and prohibits Muslim-countries from entering the US for 120 days. Paradoxically, the US prides itself on being a free and welcoming nation, yet, has consistently suppressed the influx of “freedom seekers.” In this instance, many immigration attorneys took a stand against the ban, and the title “Immigration Attorney” suddenly had a negative connotation. People lose sight of the suffering going on in the world around them when the threatening grip of fear slowly tightens like a noose around the neck of society.

An immigration attorney not only have to fight for his client but must also fight the constant stigmatism that immigrants are beneath Americans. An immigration attorney’s job does not end at the end of the day— he must continue to fight for his client against the cruel wrath of racism. Without immigration attorneys, the process to legally gain access to the United States would be a daunting task not even the bravest of souls would attempt.