Lawyer strives to help people stay in their new country

By Jo Mathis
Legal News

On one of “Those Days,” immigration attorney Gabriel Triculescu wishes he had become something other than what he is: the guy you see to straighten everything out so you can live happily ever after in the country of your choice.

On one of “Those Days,” Triculescu will consider how sweet it would be to work not with people, but machines; not with heartbreak and disappointment, but with computer software.

“It’s very tough dealing with people’s hopes,” says Triculescu, 41, a Romanian immigrant who moved to the United States in 1994. “It’s like being a doctor giving bad news to a patient regarding his health.

Some say they’d rather die than go back to the old country after being in the United States for 25 years. For some, it is like a death sentence.

“When you deal with so many people you cannot help, it has an effect on you.”

One of his more challenging cases involved a Romanian immigrant from the Grand Rapids area who was wrongly deported due to a paperwork issue that three other attorneys had missed. 

Thanks to Triculescu, the man has been reunited with his family.

A recent case involves a Rochester Hills woman from Belgium who is seeking a Green Card here so that she can be closer to her husband, whom she married in 2008 at his temporary home in the Lapeer Correctional Facility

Being an immigration attorney is very difficult because, due to the current state of the law, the majority of people who come to him for help can’t be helped, he said.

“But it’s very rewarding because you always are forced to deal with people who remind you of yourself,” he said.  “It’s very important to keep in mind who you are and where you came from.  And it gives me an edge, because I can relate very easily with these people without them having to tell me how important it is to become legal in the United States.”

It was a lifelong sense of adventure  that got him here in the first place.

Triculescu moved to Michigan from his native Romania in 1994 at the age of 24, when he won a scholarship to study at the  University of Michigan.

His reasons were a mixture of poetry and pragmatism, he said.

“Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve wanted to see the United States of America, as I perceived it from watching western movies shown on Romanian television,” he said. “I felt like I was in a movie myself during the first week — maybe months — I was here.

“The United States is still seen as the beacon of freedom and hope in the rest of the world. It was always the land of the free and the brave, where you can become somebody and live the American dream by working hard.”

The opportunity to help others — and a certain prestige factor that came with it — convinced him to go into law.

At Wayne State University Law School, he decided it was only natural to specialize in immigration because he understood the mindset.

“In my opinion, 95 percent of what an immigrant thinks is not understood unless you’re an immigrant yourself,” he said.

He said for most people, being an immigrant means belonging nowhere — and to two countries.

“Immigrating to a different country after a certain age represents both a risk and a trauma at the same time, while offering the chance to grow in a direction you wouldn’t have had in the old country,” he said.

“By the same token, you’re never 100 percent assimilated to the target country. You’re a person of both worlds, but at the same time, you’re a person of neither. You left your old world and came to the new one. Meanwhile, the old country changed. “

Public reaction to immigration issues fluctuates with the economy, he said.  When the economy is good, the public is indifferent at worst.

When the economy tanks, immigrants get a share of the blame.

Though he understands both sides of the issue, he believes that for the most part, immigrants — including those entering illegally from Mexico — have a positive effect on American society.

He’s now working on a case in which he’s putting together a waiver package for a woman who came to the U.S. and married a man with four children and on Social Security disability benefits. 

She filed for a green card, but didn’t fill it out properly.

Then she had to fly back to Romania to care for her ailing father.

When she tried to return to the U.S., she was denied because she’d overstayed her visa while in the U.S.

“It’s a very sympathetic case with all the right elements so that I can reasonably assure my client of success,” he said. “It’s very rewarding to have these cases approved. I invest myself significantly in each of these cases I take. The clients see that and appreciate it. It’s what keeps me going.

“It’s not easy. And whoever said it’s easy to be a lawyer — particularly in this field — it’s not.”

He said that while he’s financially comfortable, he’s by no means rich.

“But I have other rewards,” he said. “And I get to win cases for my clients.”
 

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