Catalino Dumlao, BMHS class of 1984

Serving the community as an immigration lawyer.

Madeline Sipos '22

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Catalino Dumlao, BMHS class of 1984, helps people stay in the U.S. legally and obtain their citizenship. “Practicing immigration law allows me to help people achieve the American dream,” said Dumlao. He defines the American Dream as “living in the U.S. where there are a lot of opportunities for work, education, and freedom to better your living situation.” With the current political climate, practicing immigration law has become more difficult and sometimes frustrating for Dumlao. He believes that the current administration does not favor immigrants, especially if they come from poorer countries. There are not enough visas to go around for the number of people trying to emigrate. Cases are now more difficult to win, and the stakes to win in an immigration case are higher than any other area of law. “In an immigration case, if you lose, your client may be deported and families may be separated for life,” said Dumlao. 

Two-thirds of all produce comes from California. The workers that make this possible are predominantly immigrants. With the current administration’s stance on immigration and the immigration rate, many farmers have a difficult time harvesting California’s produce. Similarly, in the construction field, there is a shortage of manual labor, forcing real estate prices to rise. If the government prevents these people from working, it could potentially lead to the closing of several businesses. “The fact of the matter is, we need these positions to be filled by workers. If new immigrants are willing to work in these industries, where the jobs are often laborious, I think they should be allowed to do so.” Dumlao says. 

Dumlao sympathizes with his clients because he, too, was an immigrant. He came to the United States when he was nine years old, and lovingly calls the U.S. his adopted country. During his time in the U.S. Marine Corps., he immediately recognized that many of those in the military were foreign-born. After his time in the military, Dumlao’s father suggested that he should go into immigration law, but he originally chose a different field. He worked for the Marion County Public Defenders in Indianapolis, Indiana, and provided legal criminal defense for those who could not afford a private lawyer. When his father died in 2000, he decided to go back to California to be with family, and the fastest way to get back to work was with federal law. Dumlao’s first immigration job was in Irvine, and shortly after, he realized that this was what he wanted to do. 

“If you look back at the accomplishments that the U.S. achieved, many of these achievements were accomplished by immigrants, legal and illegal,” Dumlao said. The immigrants from China built the railroad systems. The Irish established several components of the country’s cities, such as streets, sewers, and canals. The United States needs immigrants in order to continue to grow and evolve. Without the hard work of immigrants, the economy will become unbalanced, as they are about 17 percent of the workforce, according to the National Immigration Forum in 2018. Although working in immigration law has presented more and more challenges over the past few years, Dumlao will not let that stop him from helping others achieve their citizenship and obtaining their American dream.