(FRESNO, Calif.)--Immigration is a huge issue for Samoan and Pacific islanders residing in the U.S. With the help of California attorney Leah L. Tuisavalalo, tautalatala.com will host an all-new immigration blog -- "Ta'iala" -- to assist the islander community make sense of the often daunting immigration laws of the U.S.
It was seeing the life changing effects of obtaining lawful status that led Tuisavalalo to take up immigration law.
“As far as why I chose immigration, it started when I was in law school,” she told tautalatala.com. “I interned at a non-profit Law Clinic, working with low income individuals on their immigration cases.”
While an undergraduate at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Tuisavalalo clerked at the Legal Aid Society of Hawai’i, providing direct legal assistance to low income individuals in the areas of family law, housing law, consumer law and public benefits.
While at Santa Clara, she continued her work with low income individuals and families at the Katherine and George Alexander Community Law Clinic. She acted as the primary case handler, under attorney supervision, for people seeking immigration relief.
Tuisavalalo, who has familial ties to Lefaga and Vaiala, was born on the east coast U.S. in New Haven, Conn. When she was a freshman in high school, she moved to Apia, Samoa.
Now a partner at Pasifika Immigration Law Group, LLP in Fresno, Calif., Tuisavalalo recalls that as an intern at the law clinic, “most of those cases involved women who had been the victim of domestic violence.”
“[They] were seeking legal status through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA),” she explained. “I saw first-hand how obtaining lawful status can completely change not only one person's life, but it can change the lives of entire families – generations.”
Tuisavalalo graduated from Samoa’s esteemed Robert Louis Stevenson School (RLSS) in 1997 and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in 2002. She graduated and received her Juris Doctorate from Santa Clara University School of Law; admitted to the State Bar of California in 2009.
Her specialization is immigration and criminal law as it relates to immigration issues.
“That was why I went to law school in the first place; to make a difference, and I know I am doing that every time I help someone gain their residency or citizenship,” she said.
Stay tuned for our first "Ta'iala: Navigating U.S. immigration law with Leah. L. Tuisavalalo."
[Ta’iala in the Samoan language means guidance.]
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