things that matter

In Boston, This Mexicana Attorney Opened An All-Latina Law Firm To Fight For Immigrants

Talia Barrales migrated from Guadalajara, Mexico, where she was born, to the United States with her family when she was three years old. At six, she started the long, complicated and expensive process toward citizenship — becoming a U.S. national 12 years later at age 18. Frustrated with the country’s thorny immigration system, as well as the local notaries who take advantage of foreigners, she has dedicated her adult years to fighting for immigrants and women, opening Barrales Law — an all-Latina-attorney law firm — in Boston.  

“I remember sitting in an immigration office at 5 a.m. with my mom and seeing all of these people in suits skipping the line that we were waiting in, and I asked my mom, ‘how come those people get to skip the line?’ She told me they were lawyers, and at that moment I told my mom, ‘I am going to be a lawyer,’” Barrales told FIERCE.

She kept her word. Barrales, 33, completed her undergraduate degree in communications at California State University and went on to study law at Massachusetts School of Law. In 2013, she opened Barrales Law, a firm focusing on immigration that has since expanded to offer legal help and representation for family, personal injury and workers’ compensation in Massachusetts.

For Barrales, opening a private firm was one way she felt she could give back to her community.

(Courtesy of Talia Barrales |  Andrea Coral, Talia Barrales and Alba Contreras)

“If not me, then who,” she asked. “I felt like I couldn’t work for anyone else because the legal field is dominated by white men, and I just grew up so angry with the immigration system that I knew I had to run my firm the way I wanted to.”

While representing clients in all aspects of immigration law, most of the firm’s cases deal with asylum, particularly among women and children, many of them survivors of domestic violence, gang violence or political prosecution.

Having gone through the immigration process herself, Barrales knows how costly legal fees can be, especially for communities that experience high rates of poverty, wage theft and exploitation. As such, she offers flexible payment plans for her clients, and nearly 10 percent of her cases are pro-bono. Even more, a portion of the firm’s earnings go back to the people it serves, whether through cost-free English classes or immigration reform advocacy.

Throughout Boston, the firm is recognized for its commitment, compassion, hard work and advocacy. While her all-immigrant female team of lawyers wasn’t intentional, Barrales believes it’s what drives everyone in her office to give all of their effort on every case.

(Courtesy of Talia Barrales | Alba Contreras, Talia Barrales and Andrea Coral)

Office life at Barrales Law is unlike many other firms. Here, there’s no rivaling between colleagues. Instead, there’s supportive conversations about how the women can grow in the firm as well as in their personal lives.

“I used to work in a predominantly white, male law firm, and there was always an underlying tension, almost like a competitiveness,” Andrea Coral, a Colombian-born attorney who joined the firm in 2017, said. “I don’t feel that here at all. When someone comes into the office and says they won an asylum, we all celebrate that victory, because it’s a collective effort that we all made as opposed to the urgency to win more than the person next to you.”

With Latinas making up just 2 percent of all U.S. lawyers, Barrales is creating a space where immigrant women of color don’t feel alone in their fight for justice. She is also working to see that tiny percentage increase. She uses her firm to establish a pipeline to inspire more women to enter law, from encouraging children of clients to practice, offering internships for undergraduate and graduate students and paying for her paralegals’ LSAT prep courses and law school applications.

“[Latinas] being in these spaces is so important, not only to our clients but to society, to change the narrative and perspective of what people think immigrants are,” Barrales said.

(Courtesy of Talia Barrales | Anny Asuncion, Elizabeth Bautista, Andrea Coral, Talia Barrales, Alba Contreras, Doris Lemus, Leidy Loaiza and Noelle Rudeen)

It’s evermore critical considering the anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric coming out of Washington under the Trump administration.

On the night that Donald Trump was elected president, Barrales remembered being a child and staying up late wondering what her family would do if California’s Proposition 187, legislation that would have prevented immigrants from receiving health care and public schooling, passed.

“I remember seeing the law signs that said ‘Vote Yes on 187,’ and when I got to school my white teacher would make me practice my English accent so I could stay in school if it did pass,” Barrales said.

The days following the 2016 presidential election, the phones in the office rang in panic from former and present clients who feared about their immigration cases.

“When my clients tell me that their kids are constantly texting them ‘are you OK? Are you still here,’ I remember that night, and it’s not anything a child should be thinking about,” Barrales said.

That’s why Barrales Law, a firm that pledges to advocate for its clients every step of the way, aspires to be the “immigration firm for immigrants.”

“We do this because we are trying to serve our community. We want to make sure we have all-around legal services for our people,” she said.

Read: Meet Ariadna Godreau-Aubert, The Puertorriqueña Lawyer Providing Free Services To Her People Post-Hurricane Maria

Recommend this story by clicking the share button below!

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

A 9-Year-Old Girl Was Detained By Border Patrol On Her Way To School

fierce

A 9-Year-Old Girl Was Detained By Border Patrol On Her Way To School

A 9-year-old U.S. citizen was separated from her mother for 36 hours after agents at the border accused her of lying about her citizenship.

Like thousands of students in our country, Julia Isabel Amparo Medina’s daily commute requires her to cross the U.S. border.

The fourth-grade student attends Nicoloff Elementary School in San Ysidro, California and was in a carpool to school from her home in Tijuana when she ran into traffic. Medina, was commuting to school in a car driven by her mother’s friend Michelle Cardena, Cardena’s two children and her own older 14-year-old brother, Oscar. When the long line to get into the U.S. seemed to be jampacked upon their 4 a.m arrival, Cardenas instructed the kids in her car to walk to the border. She assured them that when they reached it, she would call them an Uber to get them the rest of the way to their school.

But Medina and her never made it across the border or to school that day.

According to the New York Times who talked to a Customs and Border Protection spokesman, two Amparo and her brother arrived at one of the San Ysidro port of entry facilities for pedestrians at 10:15 a.m. last Monday.

Upon their arrival, Amparo and her brother presented their U.S. passports to a CBP officer who soon accused her of being someone else. Note: Amparo’s passport image which was taken years before so she did not look exactly like herself. They also accused her brother of smuggling.

A CBP spokesperson has said that Amparo “provided inconsistent information during her inspection, and CBP officers took the 9-year-old into custody to perform due diligence in confirming her identity and citizenship.”

After CBP officers the confirmed that her brother was a U.S. citizen, he was permitted to enter the U.S while his sister stayed behind. It wasn’t until 6:30 pm on Tuesday, that Amparo was confirmed to be a U.S. citizen as well and was released and admitted to the U.S. to her mother.

Speaking to NBC7, Amparo said she was “scared” of her detention and that she was “sad because I didn’t have my mom or my brother. I was completely by myself.”

According to Amparo’s mother Thelma Galaxia, her daughter claims that she was told by an officer that she and her brother would be released if she admitted to being her cousin. Galaxia claims that officers also convinced her son Oscar to sign a document that Amparo was his cousin and not his sister.

When Galaxia was alerted that her children had been detained she contacted the Mexican consulate.

After being notified by the consulate that her daughter would be released at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. While the family felt relieved to be grateful to be reunited with their daughter, Galaxia says the separation should never have happened.

Over the weekend, Twitter was swift to express their outrage over the incident.

Some even expressed their dismay of having a similar situation happen to them.

Many are using the incident as an example of the racial issues plaguing so many U.S. citizens like Amparo.

So many of the comments included outside opinions from those who have yet to experience the direct targetting of ICE.

Over all, nearly everyone was quick to point out the saddest aspect of Amparo’s experience.

Read: Preschool Students Are Doing Active Shooter Drills And I Guess This Is The New Normal Now

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

America Ferrera Brings Actors Across The Border To Visit Migrant Shelters

fierce

America Ferrera Brings Actors Across The Border To Visit Migrant Shelters

America Ferrera has never been a celebrity to stay quiet in the face of injustice, so it’s no surprise that the actress-activist has boldly responded to the Trump administration’s policy requiring migrants seeking asylum in the United States to wait in Mexico.

Last week, the Superstore star led a group of actors, including Gina Rodriguez, Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington, Wilmer Valderrama, Roselyn Sanchez and Kendrick Sampson, across the southern border to a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico.

There, the group learned how the policy was impacting migrants while speaking directly with immigration lawyers and shelter managers as well as families and children. They hope through this real-life education that they will become better equipped to challenge the Trump administration in the US.

“It is easy for me to look at these human beings and see myself. … This could very easily have been my reality in this lifetime,” the Honduran-American actress told the Associated Press about the trip.

The “Remain in Mexico” policy limits the amount of asylum requests border patrol can attend to per day. The process, which has also forced refugees, including thousands of Central American families who have filed for sanctuary from violence and poverty in their home countries, to stay in Mexico, has slowed down the process and created case backlogs in the immigration system and overcrowding in shelters in Mexican border towns.

“We were able to bear witness to how the current administration is treating refugee families. We MUST demand better,” Washington said in an Instagram post. “Let me be clear: it is legal to seek asylum. When people cross our borders, their human rights come with them. We must protect those human rights.”

@kerrywashington / Instagram

According to NBC News, the visit was organized by nonprofits Families Belong Together and Harness, an organization started by Ferrera, Valderrama and Ryans Piers.

Jessica Morales Rocketto, who heads Families Belong Together, told the news outlet that one of the women she met at the shelter had been waiting with her toddler since November to apply for asylum.

“People get to the border and think that’s the end of the journey, but it’s only the beginning,” Morales Rocketto said.

Read: 20 Major Immigration Facts the American Public Refuses to Hear

Recommend this story by clicking the share button below!

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *