- Read to learn how an immigrant became an immigration attorney – and an inspiration. You can too!
“Mo, get in your room!!” ordered my incensed mother, Gloria. That’s the punishment I received for talking back to her. Tears welled up in my eyes and I sulked back into my office and slammed the door. I slumped down into my chair and went back to work. It was a scene straight from my childhood, except it was 2014 and I was 40 years old, and the room was my law office. The office I share with my mother.
Many people have asked me throughout my legal career: “What’s it like to work with your mom?” My response: “Remember the mom from ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’? She would always walk right in without knocking. Just imagine working with Raymond’s mom.”
I kid, I kid. In all seriousness, it’s not that bad. We have had our flare-ups, but most of them are because the work we do is extremely stress-inducing and we both care—sometimes too much. When you have been an immigration attorney for over 30 years, you’d better care about your clients. Gloria Goldman has always treated her clients like they are part of her family. Perhaps it is because, as a baby, she lived through the same immigrant experience after her parents were liberated from the Holocaust. Perhaps it is because she radiates compassion. Whatever it is, she was destined for this work.
At the tender age of six months old, Gloria emigrated with her parents from Germany in 1949. Both of her parents were fortunate to survive the concentration camps. Her mother, Esther, was a survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. It was a miracle that they both survived. The family entered the United States through Ellis Island and moved to Oak Park, Michigan. After graduating from Wayne State University, Gloria taught deaf children in Florida. She and my father, Michael, moved to Tucson, Arizona in the early 1970s. Gloria continued to maintain a deep connection to her roots by taking Holocaust survivors to schools and educating children about the genocide and its impact. Compassion for others has always been a driving force for her.
Around 1987, my father signed Gloria up for the LSAT as a bit of a gag. Gloria went along with it and took the LSAT. The next thing she knew, she was a middle-aged mother attending law school while both her kids were in high school. After a quick three years, she passed the bar and embarked on her professional journey as an attorney. During this time in my life, I was more focused on graduating high school and fulfilling my dream of becoming a broadcast journalist. I wasn’t paying much attention to Gloria’s accomplishment, but I would soon change my focus.
Four years later, I was much more interested in my mom’s legal career as my hopes of being the next Bob Costas faded away. Gloria had hung her shingle and focused on immigration law. I began spending more time in her law office during the summer of 1995. I quickly grew appreciative of the work she was doing. I had the opportunity to meet many of her clients and even visit some of them that were in detention. Gloria was the primary hope for many of these people to remain in the United States or be able to come here. She developed a reputation for being honest and caring. Gloria became a nationally known expert on cases involving immigrant victims of domestic violence. She was able to use the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to help these victims obtain their permanent residency. A majority of her clients loved and respected her.
Even while I was in college, I would often hear compliments and witness how highly respected she was by her clients and peers. When I would come to visit her during college and law school, I would often speak with her clients. They would consistently laud her honesty and zealous advocacy. Her peers would echo those sentiments as well. One of the most vital aspects of immigration law is providing the client with honest legal advice. Much of your advice is disappointing for the clients, but they need to know the truth. Because of the confusing and complex nature of the law, immigrants are ripe for being defrauded by unscrupulous individuals. They need people like Gloria to help guide them.
I believe Gloria epitomizes what it means to be a leader. Her work for so many victims of domestic violence alone is something to admire. Gloria is known for her pro bono work on behalf of undocumented victims of domestic violence. She wasn’t doing this work for the recognition and awards she ultimately received, but because she cared about the cause. In 1998, I was in my second year of law school when Gloria received the Department of Justice Meritorious Service Award presented by then-Attorney General Janet Reno. I took the Amtrak to Washington D.C. to share in this momentous occasion. Eighteen years later, Gloria was selected by the Arizona Supreme Court to receive the Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award.
I have learned much from Gloria about how to be a good lawyer, but more importantly, how to be a good person. She has set a very high standard for what I hope to accomplish in my own professional career. Her work has been a huge motivating factor in my decision to follow in her footsteps. When I decided on an area of practice, I knew immigration law was my calling based on what I saw from Gloria. She was able to create a successful business and do a significant amount of pro bono work at the same time. Her practice was a perfect combination of public interest and private for-profit legal work. In 2000, I joined her law practice, albeit from 2,400 miles away on Long Island. Five years later, I moved back to Arizona, and we have worked together ever since.
Some of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my mother, the attorney, have been:
Working with your mother can be a roller coaster. The day-to-day stressors you face at work are elevated by working with a family member. As immigration lawyers, we handle many cases involving the possible separation of families. Watching their struggles makes me appreciate my own fortune to be able to work with my mother on a daily basis. It is heartbreaking that we must defend people’s rights to remain together, but we do it as best we can. It is difficult to not internalize the pain and heartache that our clients have, and that can sometimes cause us to become more irritable towards each other. Some days I see how she struggles with the frustrations of failure that comes with our harsh immigration system. It is not easy. This frustration can often boil over into some conflict, but we always resolve our differences and start fresh the next day with hope for better results.
It’s been a long, rocky road but it’s working out beautifully. Gloria’s work as an immigration attorney and mentor to so many in our field has been a huge influence on me. In fact, she’s been so influential that my younger sister, Larissa, decided to attend law school after a lengthy career as an educator and join our practice. I know that she has also been an influence on many young people who want to follow in her footsteps and become lawyers. I have been told this by numerous children of Gloria’s clients. That is her legacy for future generations.
Gloria has had a significant positive impact on many lives throughout her career, and most importantly on her family. As someone who has witnessed the impact that she has had, I can attest that she is a strong woman who has led by example.
You’ve done good, mom.