When Immigration Matters

Why I Became an Immigration Attorney

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Mar 12, 2012 5:55:00 PM

immigration to the usa

Everyone in America has come here from somewhere else.  Ask anybody living in America and they will have at least one family member who moved here from another country.  Everybody has a story to tell.  For some, the story is simple.  For others the story is gut-wrenching and difficult to tell.  No matter what the story—most people leave their homelands and immigrate to the United States (or anywhere for that matter) for one or more of three reasons:

1. Adventure

2. To escape religious or political persecution

3.  Better opportunities in a new land

I fall into the third category and maybe looking back-- the first category too.  It has definitely been an adventure.  So what has this got to do with being an immigration lawyer?  Often I have been asked the question ”why did you become a lawyer?” I bet you’ve been asked the same.

So, here’s my story. I’d love to hear yours, too…

I arrived in the United States in 1995 from South Africa.  I went to law school in South Africa and got my feet wet as a commercial litigator.  I had no intention of living here and was simply coming over to visit my father and brother.  But then I met my US. Citizen husband who had no intention of moving to South Africa 

I was still paying off student loans in South Africa and could not afford nor did I want to go back to law school.  I discovered that you do not need a U.S. law degree to sit for the California Bar so I took the California Bar exam and eventually the Texas Bar exam as well.  I started my practice as a commercial litigator.  However, because I had a different accent and was an immigrant, people started asking me questions about immigration law and I started to help family and friends with their immigration cases and since then my practice has flourished.

I am passionate about my practice because I am an immigrant too.  I feel the same rush of adrenalin when each case is approved as I did when I first received the news that my own petition was granted.  I really am able to change people’s lives for the better.  I am able to reunite families, to bring the best and the brightest to the United States to share their ideas and inventions and to help people build businesses.  This country may not be perfect but it is the best country in the world.  I can say first hand that I am living the American Dream.

The United States is a place of improbable stories, of lives that never could have been realized anywhere else in the world.  I do not believe that my life as a lawyer and all the possibilities that have grown from my career would have been possible in any other country. You cannot choose the country where you are born. But a lucky few have the opportunity to choose the country where they live. I am privileged and grateful to my clients for allowing me to guide them in this choice. 

I am also privileged to belong to the American Immigration Lawyers Association and to have some of the finest immigration lawyers as my friends and mentors.  I have never seen an organization that is so collegial.  Unlike dealing with opposing counsel in a litigation setting, my fellow immigration lawyers have always been willing to answer my questions, provide me with their opinions and represent my clients’ interests before the USCIS.  I suppose it is an “us against them” mentality, but it makes my practice so much more enjoyable.  I am excited for our annual conference in June in Nashville where I will learn from the preeminent immigration experts, meet up with my colleagues and mentors and take home what I have learned to better serve my clients.   

When I was growing up, I never imagined that one day I would be an immigrant. The United States has allowed me to shape my future and to assist many others in shaping theirs. I am so grateful for all the blessings in my life, including each of you-my family, friends, colleagues, mentors and clients.  I can truly say that I enjoy my work, I am passionate about the causes I choose to fight, and I cherish the people I get to work with and for.  Thank you America for giving me this opportunity.


Tags: Karen Pollak, Immigration Lawyer, Immigrating to the USA

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