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  • Writer's picturetomasbanos

The Intersection of Accidents and Immigration

I have been practicing law in the Houston area since 1992.

In these last three decades I have seen the population in

Houston grow significantly. Soon we will pass Chicago and

be the third largest city in the U.S. Much of this growth has

been spurred by an exploding immigrant population.

On the very first day I opened my office three decades ago,

a gentleman and his wife unexpectedly showed up wanting

to begin an immigrant petition case. That morning I woke up

late and was expecting to arrive at my new office to finish

building my desk and move in the rest of my furniture. Around

10:00 am, my secretary called me at home and said "Where

are you? You have clients here." I sped over and sitting there

was my first real client, a man whose name I have never

forgotten--Ballow. He had recently married a young woman

from Mexico and now he wanted to obtain her permanent


Three decades and thousands of immigration cases later,

I have seen how the immigration population in Houston has

evolved and grown. One of the first things an immigrant

obtains is a license and shortly afterwards he or she begins

to drive around Houston's often congested and busy streets

and highways. Often an immigrant drives without a license

out of necessity. Either way, these new drivers inevitably

get involved in fender benders and sometimes more serious


I do not remember the first accident client that hired me,

but I am rather sure it was an immigrant. What I do remember

is that at the time, I thought only citizens could make a claim

for personal injuries. So I asked a good lawyer friend of mine,

Timothy, if he believed this was a valid case. "Of course," he

said, "almost all of my accident clients are immigrants." And

thus personal injury became a significant part of my law practice,

numbering nearly a thousand such clients since the day I opened

my office.

Now three decades later, the streets of Houston contain

hundreds of thousands of drivers who have either immigrated

here or who are the sons and daughters of immigrants who

obtained their residency since the day I opened my office.

When immigrant drivers have accidents, they face unique

situations due to their immigration status. Some are afraid

to make a claim for their injuries due to their status (or as I

believed) do not know that they have the right to make a claim.

Others do not have a license and get ticketed and sometimes

arrested. Due to these accidents some even end up in

deportation court for one reason or another.

In the end, every driver on a Houston street needs to know

that they do have the right to make a claim for personal

injuries, regardless of immigration status. An accident can

also sometimes lead to criminal or immigration issues and

if that does happen the person still has the right to defend

themselves from any charges.

The intersection of accidents and immigration can be tricky

to maneuver and every person should take steps to preserve

their rights if they find themselves in such a situation. I will

therefore be posting blog updates every week or so on areas

of the law that pertain to immigration and/or accidents.

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