Talk Wealth to Me

#053: Immigration + Finances

September 04, 2020 Felipe Arevalo, Chase Peckham, Katie Utterback Season 3 Episode 2
Talk Wealth to Me
#053: Immigration + Finances
Show Notes Transcript

Personal finance is like a language. Each country or culture has its own way of managing, saving, spending, and investing money. While there may be similarities across international borders the fact of the matter is there are numerous aspects of the financial system that are individual to each country. 

For immigrants, particularly those who have just arrived in the United States, our financial system might be the most confusing aspect of their new country. It's not just the finances related to the citizenship application, it's also figuring out the banking system, how Americans use credit cards and credit, finding a job, finding a home, paying taxes, and more.

Joining us on the show is Paulina Reyes, a San Diego-based immigration attorney. Paulina shares her own experience immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico as a child with her parents and sisters, how immigrant communities work together to support one another, and more!

Support the show (https://www.sdflc.org/help-sdflc/donate/)
Intro:

Welcome to Talk Wealth To Me, a safe space podcast, where we chat about anything and everything related to personal finance.

Felipe Arevalo:

The information contained in this podcast is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It does not constitute as accounting, legal, tax, or other professional advice.

Chase Peckham:

Hello everybody. And welcome to another edition of Talk Wealth To me season three. This week, we speak with Paulina Reyes. She is an immigration lawyer, and she is with us this week to talk about the cost of immigration, everything that those families, individuals have to go through leading up to during even post reaching the United States. Fascinating, fascinating discussion. Paulina. This is really something that , uh, we have not crossed in, in, in our podcast as far as financial literacy goes and financial topics go. So this is really going to be interesting to hear how immigration really affects the finances of, I would, I would imagine not only the individuals and families that are trying to immigrate from another country, but also the families that may be here already.

Paulina Reyes:

Yes, yes, that's right. Because they're the ones helping people immigrate, usually by family-based petitions or just supporting individuals that don't have any homes sponsoring them , um, providing food shelter, things like that. I know.

Katie Utterback:

And thank you so much for joining us too, because, you know, as I was thinking about, you know, this topic of immigration and finances, I kind of had this realization and , um, to bring up a movie, I, I was watching Sex in the City, Sex and the City 2. And they travel abroad to Dubai and, you know, they're in the , in a market and there there's one thing that they talk about, which is shoes. And, you know, they're supposed to be bartering in the market, which is not something we do in the United States. And the shoes turn out to be like the equivalent of like 20 U S dollars. And the women in the movie are used to spending like $500 upwards for shoes. So it sounds like a fantastic deal. And it made me kind of realize that when you're moving to a new country too , you kind of, you don't have to just learn a new language. You have to learn a whole new financial system. Right . Right. I think Paulina, just to start off our conversation, I think you would be interesting to know kind of your story and your experience with immigration. Um, so would you mind sharing that with us?

Paulina Reyes:

Yeah. Of course. So I was born in Mexico. I'm the youngest of three girls. Um, my dad came to the US first , um, You know, he was the one that he and my mom didn't want to come, but he came just because they had , uh , the financial difficulty in Mexico. Uh, so he came with his brothers kind of set up shop here, got an apartment. And then we came to the us . Um , my mom thought he was temporary , um , 31 years later here . Um, but yeah, it was completely different for them. My , my parents were professionals. My dad was an engineer. My mom was a banking executive, and then they had to come here and just like you said , learn a whole new system. I mean, something using credit was different. Um , everything was running by credit. It would , when they first immigrated, it was just word of mouth. Like how do they rent a home? It had to be someone from church because they had no background of work history. How do they get a job? It has to be word of mouth. They have to have a connection to be able to get a job. So , yeah . So it was just learning that new , new system way of life. Um , like you said, going to shops. My dad worked at a warehouse for about seven years in downtown Los Angeles. So in a way it was different culturally, but then we also just really stuck more with , um, Latinos in the United States. So growing up, I was, I grew up in Linwood , so it was predominantly Latinos and blacks, and that's what I knew until I went to high school. There was more diverse, diverse students there, and it was just really different trying to learn. Um, I know the school systems different. Um, we went back to Mexico and then came back to the U S so I had a chance to go to school in Mexico and then just learning was completely different. I know for my sisters, they were already , um, I believe that men and five years old, so they had to learn a new language, start off with the ESL classes and then build up that way. Um, and then eventually, luckily, fortunately for us, we were able to go to college, something that we didn't know how to navigate at all, because all of our friends were also immigrants. So trying to figure out FAFSA, like, what is this financial aid system ? Um, my sister, she went to college first though when it was my turn, I was already able to build on her knowledge. Um, I was able to go directly to a Cal state. Um, I went to Cal state long beach, and then after that I graduated, started working for a nonprofit and then went back to the law school, graduate school. So be completely different for all of us that we didn't know how to navigate that system either. Especially , um, law school. Um, we have no lawyers here in the U S but in Mexico, all of, you know , my family, they have higher education there. So it was just, it's , um, very tricky, everything. Um , there's a lot of support in the community. So now , um, with what I do as an immigration attorney, I help obviously in the legal field and the legal aspect, but also try to provide resources , um, community resources , uh , regarding finances. Cause that's one big thing that we learned , um , growing up and also just navigating the education system as well.

Felipe Arevalo:

That's something big that I can relate to the , the going to the college, trying to figure out the financial aid world , uh , growing up, I always was told, go to college, go to college, but sorry, I can't help you figure it out. Um, you're just going to have to find your way through that. Um, so it was definitely something where I didn't , uh, know what I was getting myself into. I, you know, I had , uh , help in, in high school when , when I was in the avid program and things like that, that kind of pointed me in the right direction. But then once I was off and running, it was like, good luck, buddy. Um, and I made some financial mistakes along the way and definitely took on a lot more debt than I should have to get through college. But it is something where it's a whole different system, even though you may have college educated , uh, family members in other parts of the world, it doesn't work. It doesn't always translate financially to the U S

Chase Peckham:

Let me ask you a question on that first. I'd love to hear what an immigration lawyer does. Cause I think a lot of people hear immigration attorney, immigration law, and they get a perception of , of what it is. Um, so kinda tell us what goes about your, your day. What is it that you work on on a daily basis?

Paulina Reyes:

So , um , there are three. I like to break it down in three different types of immigration. The first is family based petitions , um, uh , U S petitioning for their spouse or a child or a sibling. Um, I won't go into the details of each one, but the other one is an employment employment visas, either temporary workers. These are workers coming in or , um , um, big companies hiring foreigners, whether it's students that have been in the U S for a long time , uh , but are not us citizens. The other one is the humanitarian aspect. So those are victims of crimes, victims of human trafficking. It might be, and also asylum asylum seekers. So I specifically work , um , at the moment I just switched jobs and transitioned into the nonprofit world and I am helping , um, removal proceedings. So individuals that are in deportation proceedings, but are currently stuck in Mexico under the , uh , remain in Mexico program or what the actual term is migrants , protocol, protections, protocol, but there are asylum seekers that came to the United States and because of policies that were implemented last year, they have to remain in Mexico during the pendency of their, their immigration process. So whenever they have court hearings, they get bus at like five in the morning, or they have to present themselves at four in the morning. These are single individuals or people with family units. So you have babies, you know, ranging from , um, you know, newborns to pretty much anyone from 16 years old is what we've seen. And they get bused into the border towns where they have the court hearings. So I represent , uh, my, my , um, firm does universal we're presentations . So we can re we, our motto is that everyone deserves an attorney in court regardless of the merit or their finances. So we try to help as many people as we can. Um, and that's in court because of the pandemic. Uh, the courts have been closed and they are closed in definitely for this individuals that are in Mexico. So we have focused our resources to helping individuals in detention centers. So that's helping them , um, whether it's fill out their , their paperwork that's needed , um, give legal orientation or just legal advice, whether or not we can take their case and then help them also ask for bond. So they can be bonded out of immigration detention and reunited with family members or friends, or , um, asking for parole, which is similar to asking for a bond with a judge. So that's what I do help with them, but just the court system basically, and immigration and ice. But those are the two people that are agencies that I deal with.

Katie Utterback:

What kind of , um, mental mind shift do, I guess, do you have to help a lot of your clients work on a mental mind shift of how the US looks at money or views money or I guess handles it, is that , uh , a huge part of your conversation with them?

Paulina Reyes:

It is mainly for the individuals that are being bonded out. As of now we've helped. It just so happens that we've helped a lot of recently arrived immigrants. So they've only been in the U S for maybe about eight to three months. So the rage and they, they're not aware of, you know, you have to pay a bond and it's like, it could be anywhere from $1,500 to $50,000. And how do you come up with that money?

Katie Utterback:

Wait, wait, wait, did you say 1500 to 50,000.

Paulina Reyes:

Five zero, yes. And the minimum bond by law or regulation is a 1500, 1,500 after that it's discretionary and the judge can Anything the highest I've seen , uh , not personally on my end, but I, that I know a colleague has received is 55,000 or wow. Wow. And this like can barely afford buying chips at the detention center. So a lot of it is best depend on the community. Like how can we raise the money? So that's one aspect like people do donate, you know, like It's not , um, and if they were able to get out because of donations and like people coming together and chipping in, whether it's an organization that can donate a large amount or individual and private donation ,

Katie Utterback:

you know, there's a, there's a blog and I'm probably going to mispronounce it, but it looks like grokking it's G R O K K I N G money. And they had an immigrant finance series and there's a personal finance blogger, rich and regular he's from Jamaica and immigrated to the United States. And he was saying in this series that if you've immigrated to the U S you've accepted your role as the person in the family who can make things happen. And he said that one of the things that you're kind of tasked with being responsible for is helping, you know, cover the cost of travel arrangements for any family members that will be moving. Um , you help cover the cost of certain events and you help care for financially insecure people in your family, whether that be your parents or an aunt or an uncle. So I'm wondering for , um, you know, you mentioned that a lot of people that come from Mexico to the United States, they kind of look to the Latino community for support or, you know, advice on where to go. Um , do you see that play out in other immigrant communities as well? Is it , um, is that community, the first resource, whether that be financial work, whatever is that who people are going to?

Paulina Reyes:

Yes, I've worked with different communities and it's always been the case that somehow , um , whether they're in detention center and I just don't understand how they got connected to people outside other than legal providers. Cause they're giving it less than phone numbers. They are somehow connected to whether it's a Somali , um , community or a Haitian community. And it's very strong and they help each other mainly because, you know, the struggle. Um, but it does happen that they already know who to go to or who can help them , um, you know, pay for the flight. If they're in San Diego and they need to reunite with someone in New York, let's say then that community can come together pitch in and then buy a flight for that person to, to move, to reunite with their family member. And it's also true that once you're in the United States, you're seen as a person that has to provide, whether it's sending money back to your home country or receiving individuals, if it's someone We've got in people that have , um, neighbors. And they say, I don't know them, but they're my neighbor. And they're going to help me out. And when I talk to them, because I have to talk to them to get there , make sure that they're , um, they're able to provide food and shelter, that they have sufficient resources that I can show the judge. This person is able to provide , uh , resources for this person. Um , and then they just say, well, they're my neighbor. I know that I met them once and, but I'm receiving them and I'm going to help them out if it's hard on, on that individual to, to say no. Right .

Felipe Arevalo:

I think that adds like a whole nother financial component to individuals who are new to the country is on top of learning the financial system, which, you know, we've encountered where debt is a no, no, in some parts of the world. And , and just the idea of taking on debt or borrowing money is just not something that you do. Um, you know, even more than I know in the Latino community, especially my dad's like a cash based type of type of guy. If you don't got the money, don't buy it. Uh, I'm surprised he buys cars , uh, from time to time. But you know, there's a , there's an added component where now they've, especially for the initial earlier, they have that extra stressor financially where they're trying to provide for their extentended. And sometimes they're very extended family. Um, and try and be like that anchor, I guess, is , is kinda the best way I can describe it. So it's like another financial component that isn't there for some people

Paulina Reyes:

Right. Um , and I think because , um , there's a lot of individuals coming to the United States, you say, Oh, I can buy, I can get this on credit. I don't have to pay now , let me get everything. And then people back home think, Oh, this person bought so many things they must be doing really well without knowing that it's all debt. It's nothing that they actually, Oh , that happened to us. It's happened to family members, people that I know at work, we're not coworkers, but , uh , clients , um, people that I've encountered as well.

Katie Utterback:

Yeah. I imagine if you grow up thinking that debt is a bad thing, and then you come to the U S and there's, you know, the consumerism reigns supreme and here's 10 different credit card offers. That must be just such a different way of living life. It , I mean, on some level, it must be really exciting. Like, look at all of this financial power I suddenly have , right?

Paulina Reyes:

You get the big cars, you get the big , uh , latest cell phone without, you know, really hate or saving and paying for it cash .

Felipe Arevalo:

So if you think about it now with the age of social media and the access to the internet in , in other parts of the world, you, you don't see. And then we do this, we did mention this in our presentations, the communities that we do here in San Diego, sometimes with the high schools that maybe are not in afffluent part of town, you can't judge a person by what you see on their Instagram, because they could be, you know , they could have this really fancy car and, you know, the fancy clothes and the fancy shoes and be in a worse financial state than the person driving around the old, you know, little, 1980s Honda that maybe is doing a whole lot better. And there's that perception, which sometimes if you don't look deeper into it can cause people to fall into that debt trap where they're like, Whoa, I think either you're telling me I can drive the Tesla also. Um, you know, and it's just like, yeah, you can drive it if you borrow your friends . So you don't have to buy your own, which is what I do.

Katie Utterback:

So Paulina , when someone's coming to the U S um, how much should they expect to pay to become a citizen?

Paulina Reyes:

Mmm . There's a long , um, there's a long wait time to become a citizen. So you can either immigrate to the United States as a permanent resident. And then from there it's five years, which is a really short time, or you can start off from the bare bottom, let's say , um , in the legal system as an asylee or refugee, and then you have to wait some time , then become a resident. So that's money involved. Then after that, you have to wait five years and then become a us citizen. So for now , um, the citizenship application costs $720. Um, and October 2, 2020, it will go up to $1,200 and that's per application. So family of five, like it, wasn't my case. I paid, I think $350 each application. And we waited , um, after we were eligible because we couldn't afford all the applications and we wanted to do it all at once. Um, and we waited and it was 350. This was about over a little over 10 years ago, and now it's 720. And then it's , it's going to go up $1,200. So just the application itself is ridiculous. Um , aside from legal fees that you might need, you could do it by yourself. You don't, you don't need an attorney, but if you have a complicated case, it's , um , encouraged that you have an attorney help you fill out and go with you every step of the way up to the interview. Um, and that could be costly as well.

Katie Utterback:

Wow. And I was looking through , um, some of the different fees and it looks like so the $720 for the application fee, does that include like the biometric test fee that you would need, or is that in addition?

Paulina Reyes:

I believe the $720 includes the biometrics fee and not everyone has to have biometrics. If you're over a certain age, they don't require you to do biometrics. Um, and so the cost is about 80, $85, less than that.

Katie Utterback:

Okay. And so if there's an error on the form, or if there's something like that, what , what happened to your application?

Paulina Reyes:

if it's a major? So once you get to the interview , um, the asylum, I'm sorry, the USDA is officer will re interview, review the application with this , uh, with the applicant and see whether or not that person qualifies to become a us citizen, if they do not, for whatever reason, hopefully not , um, about, you know, that they have to be deported because it does happen at that stage. Um, or any reason that there's an error on the application, or maybe they just didn't qualify because of the time they did it too soon. Um, they do have to start over. So it's your done. And then, you know, raise the money again. There's no,

Felipe Arevalo:

And , and that's where you get the thing where it's like, it's highly recommended to get a person who does this all the time to go do it. You know , it's like taxes, you could do your own taxes, but that error that you potentially could avoid could cost you. You know, we talk about all the time, you know, you could do your own, there's a lot of things you could do on your own or, or you could pay and have someone who does this all the time, do it for you and not make that much costly or error.

Chase Peckham:

Yeah. Paulina I mean. If somebody is trying to immigrate to the U S let's say just for Mexico. Cause that's what we're all familiar with here in San Diego. Um, what, where do they start? I mean, how do they find you? Do they find somebody on the U S side? Do they find , uh, somebody that in law, on the , on the Mexican side to help with the paperwork? I mean, how does that, how does that all work? How would they know how much money to spend? I mean, again, you mentioned word of mouth earlier on in the podcast. Is that the case pretty much throughout this whole suit , this whole process?

Paulina Reyes:

Pretty much , um, most of our clients that we've, I used to work at a private firm and most of the clients that we had were word of mouth. Um, I mean, we were, it was a big firm in San Diego, so you could easily research it and find it on Google or any other ad service. And , um, but we, it also starts from the family member in the U S they have that conversation. You know, if it's , uh , I know for an art experience, my mom wanted to immigrate my grandma. Um, so she was already here obviously and talking about, okay, is this something we want to do as a, as a family, because we do have to pull resources from here in the U S whoever , um , child is in the U S and the children in Mexico, because, you know, we have to, well, they had to share the cost of the application and the legal fees. So once you do identify, okay, we do want to immigrate this person. Um, it's usually family , it's a family base . So the person is already in the U S a U S citizen. Um , they look for an attorney. Um , usually if you've never done this process before, or if you haven't done it in, you know , several years, you look at someone who recently did an and ask, Hey, what did your attorney do? I was asserted rather than, Oh, I just found you on Google, which does happen, but it's usually recommend recommendations or word of mouth. So once they get to the law office, there's the scene with consultations. And that's just to say whether or not you even qualify and what you need to get. And after that, and there's the fee associated with application process. So if someone is in Mexico, you have to file an application, establishing that there is a relationship that's eligible for a visa. Once that's approved, you have to pay for different application to the consulate. Then this person has the visa available, but they need to be interviewed to make sure that they're eligible to actually immigrate to the U S the ones that's paid for and done , then that person waits for their passport gets a visa on their passport to say that they're entering the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Once they're in the United States, within the first 90 days, they have to pay another fee to actually get their green card. What we commonly refer to as green card, their lawful permanent resident card. So all of that , um, those applications, I would say, could be about , um, it could be about $2,000, just an application fees aside and not including the legal fees. And that ranges, depending on the attorney, you go to whether or not, not, you know, the person where they're located, if it's a big farm , it's usually more costly, but they have more resources. Um , and they are able to kind of get the process moving a lot quicker. Um , internally, if it's a smaller firm, it might be less, but, you know, you could have that lag time because they have more clients that they have to , um , service. So it really depends on in that area here in San Diego is a little bit pricier than it would be in. Um, I'd say somewhere up in Fresno or , uh , a different community that this is for attorneys changes, but across the board nationwide, the fees for applications are the same. So someone earning money in California, you know, it might not be, it might be faster to save up for that because you earn more versus someone that's in a different part of the country that doesn't earn as much. You have to raise the money.

Katie Utterback:

That makes sense. So if someone's here on a green card and they're , they're trying to wait the five years or whatever , um, are they eligible for any sort of financial assistance programs? Like, you know, if you're here on a green card and then the COVID pandemic hit, was there any sort of financial assistance that you qualified for?

Paulina Reyes:

Yes. For a lawful permanent residents, there was. Um, and I believe they also received the stimulus check because it required , um , uh, working or a valid social security number. So they're able to obtain the resources and they're once they're lawful permanent resident , um, and you need to obtain resources, you know, you can move as you would as a U S citizen. Um, there's no repercussions. Once you become a citizen that the look at , um , it becomes more difficult when you're not a lawful permanent resident, but you've been working and you don't have a valid social, then you don't get any of the incentives. You don't get any of the help because you don't have a social security number. So then that again, falls back on the community. How can we support these individuals here in San Diego? There is an organization that is providing money to families that did not qualify for this feminist chat. Um , but they've been working and they they're residents of San Diego County. And I believe they provide about $500 , um, to those, to that household, which is different from what the symbolist check is. But at least it's something.

Katie Utterback:

Yeah. Was it like a one time payment of $500?

Paulina Reyes:

I believe it was a one time payment of 500. And then afterwards, I believe California allowed for help for , um , immigrants that don't have social security numbers. So then the state was able to provide money.

Katie Utterback:

So , um, until someone gets that social security number, are they able to go to a U S bank and open an account, or I guess try to start building a credit history, or what options are there? You don't have a social security number.

Paulina Reyes:

I believe some banks do allow individuals to open up accounts without a social security number. And I know also that , um , there's certain companies , um, I won't say the name, but I know there's one that's predominantly in a Latino community. And it's very well known that gives credit like store credit. Uh , it's a big department store. Um, even if you don't have a social security number, the interest rates are ridiculous, but you know, you get it. And it's a place where you can buy appliances. It's a place where you can buy , um , you know , the big refrigerators, the washing machine things that you actually need, but that's the hook that you , you can't get credit anywhere else with the lower interest rates we can give you credit, but it's ridiculous.

Chase Peckham:

And it doesn't build them credit either. So even if they cause it's kind of a giving credit off the grid, so to speak, it's not your typical as we would open up a credit card and it's reported that we're making payments on time. So even if they do, let's say, take out the credit and they make payments on time at a ridiculous interest rate , um, they're still not building that credit that they would need to further, you know, buy a home someday. And that kind of thing, which is really unfortunate, I guess there's sometimes there , there's this belief that when people do not have a social security number and they're in there working , um, wherever they're working in the U S that , that, that they are , um, trying to avoid taxes and that kind of thing. And I think that that's probably not true at all. Can you speak to that? What the frame of mind is when people typically from what you see, what the frame of mind is for the reason for wanting to be took to come to the U S and work ,

Paulina Reyes:

Um, just provide for their family. It's just, I want to, I want to work. I don't want to be a public charge. I don't want, you know , um, what's the word , um, handout or I , I handouts. They , uh, um, they want to work. And when they do are able to find work, the clients that we experienced with , uh , what I have encountered, whether it's , uh , personally within my own family or clients, is that they do pay taxes and you don't get as much in return because they don't qualify for it, but they have to pay. And once you become a resident, if something opens up , um, and you're eligible to become a resident, the first thing we ask is how do you establish that you've been in the United States and that you're , you have good moral character is by your tax record. So you ask people show me that you've paid taxes, let's say within the last 10 years. And they have those records, whether it's , um, you know, applying for, for a process , um, affirmatively asking immigration to , you know, I'm eligible. Um, I want to become a resident or whether it's in the removal processing , um, defensive, which is the side that I'm seeing now. Um, once you're put into deportation proceedings, the judge wants to know how can you prove that you're a good person and that you've been in the United States for so long. The first thing they ask is, have you paid your taxes. So Then within our community, we know, Oh, you have to pay taxes. Regardless.

Felipe Arevalo:

According to the IRS, the, what they use is the individual taxpayer identification number or the I T I N. Um , and it's issued by the IRS to individuals who are not required to have a U S uh , taxpayer information number, but do not have, or cannot obtain a legal social security number. So there is a way for individuals to file taxes without actually having a social security number.

Chase Peckham:

And is there a fear though, to do that for fear, that they're going to find you and try to deport you?

Paulina Reyes:

I think there was for individuals that have recently arrived. Uh, we've worked with individuals that have been in the U S for 30 plus years. Um , they filed taxes. They are, they don't have any legal status in the United States, but they own their own business, whether it's carpeting, landscaping , um, and it, you know, it's a, it's a growing business, but the only way they can go forward is by paying their taxes and using the ITIN. Um, when people do recently arrive , um, there might be that fear, especially now during , um , these political times that they'll find a way , um , to get that information. They know where you're living. Um, they can go into your home, but us as legal service providers , um , it's a different agency, you know, they're not allowed to share information to , um, the department of Homeland security. So we just, you know, give them that information, tell them their rights. Uh , we do a lot of know your rights presentations within the community. Um, and that's one of the big ones. The, they always add. People always ask, you know, whether it's getting records at the DMV , um, going to the hospital. It's also another one of , um, big questions that people ask and taxes, whether or not they'll find this person and are they going to come to my home, deport me , um, you know, legally they're not allowed to share information and that's all .

Felipe Arevalo:

Yeah. So the, the, I think if it goes back to the word of mouth, you know, if their friend who's been here X amount of years, or just the guy from church, or the girl from church, or their neighbor says, Oh yeah, I've been doing them for the last five years. And then it kinda creates that , uh, the idea of, okay, well, if you know that guy down, the Street's doing it and that's going to help him potentially in the future, I might as well just file the taxes. And I think that's one of the big , um, you know, myths too, along with financials and immigration is that sometimes those communities are not paying taxes, but I think a lot of times, you know, they are, it's just, they're filing their taxes a little differently than, than you or I would.

Paulina Reyes:

Yeah. That's a great way to put it. And also just sales tax rate. That's another , um, consumerism then , where do we like to buy our things? So we like nice things.

Katie Utterback:

I wanted to ask you too . It seems like , um, a lot of immigrants, like you hear stories about, you know, like this person was a doctor in India, but then when they came here, like the certification is different. So now, like they're not a doctor anymore. How much of a role does that play too when people are having a conversation with you, whether that be like about their finances or, you know, how much they can afford , um , in terms of your help and your services , um, is that a huge thing that comes up that like your career may change once you come to the U S or is that something people just kind of assume, like, I know that my life may be different, but this is the path I'm going to take right now.

Paulina Reyes:

Right. So in the process, when they're individually immigrating, they usually already know that it's going to be different, but they, whether it's because of fear in their home country, they have to leave, regardless of what's going to happen in the United States or , um, it might just be that, you know, again, it's , I think a lot of it actually now that I think of it is with theater , whether they come lawfully in the sense that they're immigrated with family members, especially if they have a good position back in their home country , um , it's usually associated with things aren't going well, whether it's directly, the threats are directed at that person or just the country itself. It's a civil unrest and they'll , um, you know, immigrate to the United States. And now that I am working mostly with individuals that are seeking asylum, it's because they fled their country because of , uh, either they were prosecuted or they fear persecution or torture, but it is because, you know, regardless of what happens in the United States, my life is going to be safe. And, you know, whether I have to work at , um, you know, as a cashier, when I was, you know, like I said, a doctor, an executive or a professional that's, what's going to happen. Uh , currently I have a client who was , uh, a manager in one of her home countries , a bank manager, and she dealt with , um, you know, politician . She helped just, just the higher ups, the higher levels of financially because of her position, man , she was, and she was, you know, born into it, like a more affluent family. She was just accustomed to different things in life, but because of threats to her and her family, she had to flee and now she's moving shelter to shelter. Um, and depending on someone else in the United States to allow her to be at her home until her immigration process is completed. So it is having that difficult conversation of, you know, that life that you had back then, I'm sorry to hear this, but I'll help you in the legal aspect as much as I could. And can I do with resources that can help you, you know, built up. But again, we've had individuals that, whether that was their career of choice in the back in their home country, then they take courses here in the United States and start, you know, they have the personal knowledge and experience, but they need that degree. Um, so they'll start, you know, going to community, going to English classes first and then community, and then eventually do you end up , um, hopefully end up in the profession of their choice.

Chase Peckham:

You hear those stories of them kind of making their way back to what they did here in the U S

Paulina Reyes:

I have not so much for the medical field though, but as maybe a more of the administrative side, I've heard of those. Um, we have heard of just the younger folks that are, you know, children of immigrants or that the immigrant immigrated as a child, that they weren't able to eventually go into a higher education and end up, you know , with a higher degree of success. We recently had a client that was , uh , uh, published in our social media that came to the United States about four years ago, I believe. Um, he started high school. He immigrated, I'm old enough to start high school already. Um, just top of the graduated top of his class. No, he didn't know English. So he had to learn English , um, graduated top of his class, and now has a full ride to , uh , a college here in the , in California.

Katie Utterback:

That's incredible.

Chase Peckham:

That is , yes. Every time my son complains about going to school. I'm going to knock them on top of their head and go get your mind, right ?

Katie Utterback:

Yeah. I can't imagine the stress of coming to a different country. And then the, just the financial stress involved with all of that too, whether that be you having to hire an interpreter or taking English classes or whatever that may be. Yeah. It's impressive. I mean, everything is just impressive.

Chase Peckham:

It's amazing what human beings can do if they put their mind to it . It really is from, so let me ask you this Paulina , I mean, I guess as , as we wrap this up, are you excited about where your career can take you as in with helping the people that you do?

Paulina Reyes:

Yes, definitely. I think there's times, especially during the last four years, that

Chase Peckham:

We hear that a lot, by the way, Many, in many of , many of our discussions,

Paulina Reyes:

It just happened to be four years for no reason whatsoever , um , that the laws have , well, actually not the laws, policies and regulations have changed , um, in the immigration world , um, field. So , um, it is , um, just exhausting sometimes, but then I, you know, talk to a client and they're just so grateful and just looking at the light at the end of the tunnel and just, okay, I'm almost there. I need to get my immigration status. I've done this, I've done that. And I think while I'm home, I'm sheltered in a house with air conditioning. I have no reason to complain. Um, and I'm going to do the best that I can to help this individual and help everyone that I could just, you know, come in and just help them because their life is in danger. And as I'm writing my briefs and getting documentation, I'm writing and saying, if this person does not stay in the United States and gets deported, they literally could die back in their home country. And that's kind of what keeps me going. Um , and then just seeing the resilience of immigrants , um , wherever they may be, whether it's immigrating directly from their home country or, you know, walking up, you know , thousands of miles to get to the United States, just for a chance, an opportunity to be heard in court. And hopefully I'll be allowed in the United States then that's um , yeah, that's what gets me Mo moving.

Chase Peckham:

Well you can tell that you have passion for what you do.

Paulina Reyes:

Yes, definitely. I mean, I guess that the people come to the U S just for a chance to work and build up their own families and save their lives. It's no one comes to the U S thinking, Oh, I'm going to come. And I'm just going to depend on the system. Something that they've never even heard of because that's not available in their home country.

Felipe Arevalo:

And it goes hand in hand with our last episode. It's a different way. If you look at it of building generational wealth , uh, and creating it in a way that it it's at times exponentially so much larger than what they could have accomplished back home, wherever home happens to be, it's like a different way of creating a generational wealth just by making the move. The financials eventually could follow. It may be a generation or two down the line, but there's that shift that paradigm shift. Now they've got to learn the new system, but now there's that added opportunity that was not available one, two generations ago.

Paulina Reyes:

Hey, and I think , um, you know, we talk about credit and, and things like that, but that was one of the reasons that I was able to even go to college or go to law school was on student loans and that's something that's not, and many other countries is taking a big chunk of loan just to go to school. It's usually your family has to pay for it. So there's no opportunity for that. If your family does not have the resources to put you through a private school, we put you through college and then also a higher education. So , um, yeah, it's building that. So now , um, I'm an attorney. My sister has a master's in education. My mom's a minister. She has her master's in divinity. My dad owns his business and we're all doing pretty good for ourselves and building that for our generation now, okay . Now we know the system. Now you , you know, it's their opportunity to go through , um , education, if that's the path they want to go through or whatever career they choose.

Chase Peckham:

That's incredible. You're Americans.

Paulina Reyes:

Yeah, exactly.

Chase Peckham:

Well, this has been enlightening. We can't thank you enough for being here today. Um, is there anything else you'd like to add as you leave? Would you like to , to promote the nonprofit you work for? Um,

Paulina Reyes:

Um, so the nonprofit I worked for, it's called immigrant defenders law center. We are based in Los Angeles and recently opened an office here in San Diego. Again, the motto is universal representation . Uh, we try to assist as many people as we can, regardless of merit of their case , um, in removal proceedings, and also like to highlight , um, the San Diego immigrant rights consortium, they help , um, if you like to donate their , they have two funds. One is to provide the money that I was talking about, that individuals that didn't get the stimulus, weren't able to get the stimulus check. They have that fund to give to household , um, families. And also they have a bond fund where immigrants and here in San Diego County . So if you are a resident of San Diego or Imperial County, where we have the two detention centers, if you, if you're detained there or you're a longtime resident, and we can help you with pay for your bond, you know , anywhere upwards from 1500 to 50,000. So anyone likes to donate.

Katie Utterback:

we gotta get that community fund growing.