Attorney Cynthia Grande is devoted to helping the Southland’s immigrants navigate the legal system and many of her cases are fraught with predicaments.
Imagine representing a woman diagnosed with cancer but doesn’t qualify for treatment because she’s an undocumented worker. Does she stay in the United States, her home since the 1980s, and risk dying from the disease? Or does she return to Mexico for treatment, knowing she’ll be unable to return to her stateside family?
This scenario is a real-life example of the kind of immigration cases that Torrance-based attorney Grande is taking on to help the Latino community where she was raised.
“There’s a misconception that there’s a line to get in to get legal immigration status, and if you do the right things and wait patiently, you will get a visa. But it doesn’t work that way,” explains Grande, who is helping countless immigrants navigate the legal system through her Grande Law Firm. “Some people have no options even though they pay their taxes and have kids in the United States. There’s no path to citizenship for them. They can’t get in line.”
Grande’s client with cancer filed for legal status 20 years ago. “She’s still waiting,” notes Grande. “If she goes to Mexico for treatment, she can’t come back. So I am helping her explore other options.”
Inspired by her own family’s plight, Grande became an attorney to fight for those without a voice. But with her roots, attending college and getting a law degree didn’t seem like an option for anyone in her family. Grande’s family lived in El Salvador during the country’s civil war in the 1980s. Her parents fled the violence and settled in San Pedro where they raised Grande, her brother and sister.
“My dad was doing accounting work in El Salvador and attending college,” explains Grande. “After my family moved to the United States, he worked in clothing factories. There weren’t visas available to them. They didn’t have legal status until immigration reform years later.
“Growing up my parents worked two to three jobs to take care of us. I knew it was important to get an education and become someone who could make a difference.”
After graduating from the University of Southern California, Cynthia decided to go to McGeorge School of Law at University of the Pacific in Sacramento because of a life-altering experience when she was young.
“My grandma died in an accident in the Southland. She was a pedestrian, and a car hit her. I don’t remember anything done to prosecute the person who hit her,” recalls Grande.
“My parents were predominantly Spanish speakers, and as a kid I was frustrated by all of it. I knew that was not okay. Becoming an attorney was a way I could help Spanish-speaking people who don’t have access to a lawyer.”
Now she spends her time educating community groups about the impact of the Trump administration rescinding DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that enabled 800,000 young people (often referred to as Dreamers) to receive a renewable work permit.
“I really want to shift the conversation of what it means to work with a lawyer,” says Grande, adding that there are language barriers, misunderstandings and distrust of the legal system among documented and undocumented Latinos. “There’s a lot of negativity. It’s scary and overwhelming to people in my community. They are worried a lawyer will take advantage of them and not really understand what they are going through.
“I want to create a new conversation: We get you; we value you. We are here to guide you and navigate the complicated situation, so you can live with peace of mind,” continues Grande.
“When I thought about starting my law practice, I knew there weren’t many resources in Torrance. I wanted to be the resource for my community that they could trust and feel comfortable with and know that I have their back. I’m so gratified to know that I am building that right here, near the streets where I grew up.”
Learn more about the Grande Law Firm and what services they provide here.