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My Summer 2015 Success Story

by Margaret W. Wong & Associates Summer Extern I visited US in summer of 2009 for the first time in my life to attend JHU summer school with a tourist visa. I still remember the days my parents sending documents to the travel agency for them to arrange and prepare our visa interview at US Consulate of Guangzhou. On the day of interview, we waited in line for hours before we finally preceded to one of the interview windows. A nice lady asked us the purpose of the trip and we handed over invitations from our family friends and JHU summer school. She stamped the files and told us we are all set. The trip then was quiet pleasant. I visited almost all major cities and best colleges on the East Coast. For the first time in my life, I made friends with dozens of foreigners while I was in JHU.

US Visa application for many people from China in recently years becomes much easier than they may expect. With a proper job, sufficient reasons and evidences to guarantee your return, and no criminal or denied visa record, one can almost for sure receive a tourist visa. Yet, not everyone could come to America with a legal status. Some, such as Mr. M who was originally born in El Salvador and came to U.S in 2004 at the age of 15 without a legal status ever since, never lived with a legal identity until they reached out to seek legal assistance on their immigration status.

Mr. M and his family reached out to us in the summer of 2012 when he started seeking legal assistance on getting his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival approval (DACA). Ever since 2012 when Obama administration first announced the DACA program, thousands of young immigrants have been benefited from it and achieved their dreams on U.S soil. DACA approved immigrants are able to gain their work permits and live with no need to worry about deportation. Hence, they can look forward to a much brighter future.

The firm evaluated his case scenario and filed I-821 and I-765 for him in order to help him become a DACA recipient and be permitted to work and improve his family’s living standard. The filing was completed by September, 2012; despite the process delay at USCIS, we successfully received DACA approval for Mr. M in November, 2013, coincidentally on the same day when he was picked up by local authority because of his appearance on the fugitive list! We immediately contacted the local law enforcement and updated them with the latest DACA status of Mr. M’s case. The police released Mr. M soon after they verified the documents. Mr. M therefore became a DACA recipient and he no longer had to worry about deportation. He could now receive education and work legally in America to make a better life for him and his family.

Similar to Mr. M, the elder generation of immigrants has faced much crucial situations than my generation has had. Immigrants of earlier years might have entered America without a legal status. Even today, some of them still remain undocumented. Immigrants from China like Ms. Wong came to America for a new life, yet while they were enrolling in school, they had to work in restaurants, hotels, and stores to make a living. Without any concern on economic supplies and sometimes being even a bit spoiled while travelling and studying in America, our generation is a truly blessed one.

Almost a year after my trip to JHU, I decided to enroll in Western Reserve Academy, a private boarding school in northeast Ohio. I visited the US Consulate for the second time. I was anxious before I received my visa approval as some of the online forum posts suggested that students must convince the interview officer that they are indeed students but not potential undocumented workers. I prepared myself with answers to hundreds of question the night before I went to the Consulate. My father came with me, yet he was denied entry access as his interview was set on a different date. Before I could even begin my solitariness in Ohio, at that moment when my father was stopped at the entrance, I started a brief journey of handling everything on my own.

Fortunately, the interview officer seemed much nicer than I expected. He only asked me to confirm the name of my school and my favorite subject before he approved my application. I held a giant folder of documents that included our property status, net wealth of my family, proof of funds, and information that tells everything about my family. My parents prepared this folder and expected that I will be present with my father at the interview. Besides knowing that the folder contains everything I needed, I had no knowledge where in the folder I should look for if the interview officer asked for one of the files. Nonetheless, he approved my application and a week later he approved my father’s when he showed him a photo of our family. “The officer looked at our picture and he said, ‘oh I know that your son. He was approved by me last week.’” My father told me so when we were celebrating a pending start of my new life oversea.

Education in a private boarding school includes a mental training of living an independent life for a long term. After living with my parents for fourteen years without any worry, the loneliness of sleeping in a dormitory and the challenges of handling every detail and uncertainty in a completely different cultural environment were indeed difficult. Yet, when I look back to this experience after graduated from high school in summer of 2014, I found it meaningful as it educated me to be strong and forced me to grow much mature than I was. Not to mention that with a legal visa status, I can always return home for a nice resort during winter, spring, and summer break.

Nonetheless, there are people who, without a legit immigration status, are suffering or constantly worrying about the pain of family separation. Living independently to grow up under a legal status while away from the loved ones is completely different from being forced to separate with one’s family. Mr. T is a China native. He marries his wife, an U.S citizen who is also a China native. They have built a happy family with their two children ever since 2012. Mr. T takes very good care of his family members. He works hard to give them a better life. Nonetheless, without a legal immigration status to ensure his permanent residence in the US, Mr. T and his family will not be able to continue their happiness. They had constantly worried about their separation and everyone in his family had tremendous stress.

Fortunately, Mr. T and his family reached out to us for help. After a meeting of consulting, Mr. T hired us to represent him in his I-130 Petition of Alien Relative case in February 2013. We took over the case and began to prepare documents and forms. The firm filed I-130, I-485, and I-765 for our clients and sent these files and his application to USCIS. At the same time, we also gathered the client’s background stories and supporting documents in order to give him a better chance of winning. The firm finished all the filing and mailed out all the forms to USCIS by March 2014. The approvals were granted by USCIS in August. Our client can now continue living in America with his happy family and they will no longer worry about separation.

Continuing my academic career after high school, I attend New York University and decide to major in Politics. Being a foreign-born, I understand the influence of globalization as it gives people like me a chance to study abroad, to be an immigrant, to pursue dreams and build a life. Everything in the real world today is connected to politics. It impacts the interactions between individuals, races, and countries. Studying politics at NYU gives me the acuity needed to understand how global events are created and what are the outcomes and impacts on our daily life. Politics is my choice of preparation for my future career in studying and practicing law. However, it is the shadowing experience at Ms. Wong’s law firm that provides me the opportunity to witness real life experience of how politics impacts individual’s life.

The concept of political asylum used to exist solely in my textbook knowledge. Nonetheless, during my extern period at Margaret W. Wong & Associates, I am able to assist works that are related to political asylum cases. Political asylum becomes not only a concept of rescuing politically persecuted people and reinstating their lost human rights, but also an opportunity for these people to get rid of their nightmares and start a new, stabilized life in America.

Our Client Ms. M, a Syria native, came to the firm for her asylum case. As her family's lands were seized, she feared that her life may be threatened as the regime became politically more unstable, unpredictable, and extreme. The firm took the case in October, 2013. Attorney Scott and paralegal Albion began to work with the client. We completed the filing and mailed out I-589 with supporting documents in November 2013. We requested an expedited interview for our client because her visa would expire soon. After the interview time was set, we prepared Ms. M for it twice and Scott joined her at the interview in Chicago in February, 2014. The interview went well. We followed up with other supplemental filings and sent them to USCIS.

The process became not as smooth as there was no decision from the Asylum Office within the said 2-4 weeks window. We began to submit inquiries and asked for the status, yet the responses have always indicated that the case status was pending without final decision. In June 2014, we called USCIS and asked to expedite the case. Although the officer put in an expedition request, the processing remained ongoing. As everything went much slower than expected, our client started to worry about the case status. We explained the situation and also in March 2015, reached out to a Congressman to seek help on getting the case expedited. Unfortunately, there was still no response.

Fortunately, the stress did not last any longer. In April 2015, our client received the Receipt notice from USCIS, a good sign that indicated a decision will be made soon. And just as we expected, the decision came out in May 2015 as the approval of Ms. M's asylum was granted. After months of stressful wait, we finally received the best news. With the protection of our judicial system, Ms. M can now begin a new chapter of her life in America.

To shadow Ms. Wong at her firm is one of the many decisions I made to better prepare myself for my careers after undergraduate school. Experiencing the way of properly handling business is just one of the very basic things I have learnt. The way of thinking critically to carefully assess a present case is one of the most significant lessons I have learned from Ms. Wong. Nonetheless, what make this experience invaluable are the challenges in a life of profession which I have encountered in everyday’s work. Handling phone calls can be just as hard as handling clients and case files for a newcomer. Every great work starts with small details and I firmly believe that this is the spirit of working as a profession.

Despite Ms. Wong’s teaching of the way of thinking when handling case scenarios, writing success stories and witnessing meetings with immigrant-clients give me the chance to see other immigrants’ life and the challenges they were facing. Earlier generations of immigrants had encountered far more difficulties when they attempted to settle down in America. Most of these people did not have a stable source of funds and they had to work extremely hard in order to support their own life. Such observation together with my experience of taking the responsibility of being a part of the firm and working the corresponding job assignments give me a perspective on my parents’ daily life, a life in which they work hard to make sure that they can financially support my education and daily expenses ever since I was born. Life is not easy, especially to those who came to America without a legit identity and constantly worried about deportation and family separation.

My intention of shadowing Margaret W. Wong and Associates was to experience the life of practicing law and gain a perspective on this profession. Not only was I able to achieve such a goal, but also more importantly I learned a lot about the history of immigrants, the difficulties of living in America and striving for their dreams as foreign-borns, and the changes between generations of immigrants. Being an immigrant in America, especially as the first generation immigrant of the family, implies various challenges. To the earlier immigrants, finding a job or jobs to be able to support their families financially is the first major challenge they have encountered when they were settling in this country. To my generation, most of our parents have eliminated such a challenge for us as they have worked very hard to ensure our funds; to most of us, the challenge is education, an education not only limited to classrooms, but also included the comprehension of society and culture. Our gain from such an education will ultimately give us the ability to support our own life and family one day.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Ms. Wong, her associates and employees at Margaret W. Wong & Associates here at the end. Without your assistance and guidance during my externship, I will not be able to understand the life of profession and history of immigrants as thorough as I can now. Thank you for such a wonderful opportunity and I am looking forward to learn more as I continue my education and move towards my profession. I hope one day I can be just as successful as you are today.