The immigration attorneys at Goldman & Goldman, PC in Tucson can relate to their clients — perhaps more than most.
Gloria Goldman and her two children — all immigration attorneys — often see shadows of their own family’s story in those of their clients.
“I talk to clients who came here to flee torture and suppression in their countries. And I tell them I was a refugee, and I connect with them,” said Goldman, 73. Her family history makes her compassionate for her clients, many of whom have also lost family members.
When she was just 6 months old, Goldman and her parents came to the United States from Germany as refugees.
It was 1949, and just three years earlier, her mother, Esther Klein, was liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Her father, Morris Klein, was also a Holocaust survivor. Her parents met in a displaced persons camp.
Mo Goldman, Gloria Goldman’s son, said he sees a deep connection between his heritage and his work as an immigration attorney.
“To me it seems like we can use our own history as a catalyst to helping others and hopefully getting them the goal of becoming a citizen of this country,” Mo, 46, said.
Larissa Goldman, Gloria Goldman’s daughter, said she feels like she has a natural empathy and understanding of clients’ struggles.
“Because of the fact that they may be persecuted or experienced similar aspects to what my grandparents went through, it is rewarding to be able to see that we can help other people by what we do, and to get them out of bad situations,” said Larissa, 44.
For Gloria Goldman, one of the legacies of the Holocaust was not having any family around while growing up — no cousins, grandparents, aunts or uncles. Her parents were able to come to the United States because her father’s cousin, who was already in the U.S., sponsored their visas, but the families did not stay in contact for long after their arrival. Reflecting on her past, she said her work as an immigration attorney means “quite a bit” to her, especially the gratitude people show her for changing their lives.
One of the people she helped even took her name. She did a pro bono case revolving around a young girl who was being raised by undocumented immigrants. She was a baby when they took her in because her mother was sent to prison. Gloria helped the couple obtain their green cards and they ultimately adopted the child they were raising.
“When they adopted her, they told her she would have their last name, finally, and if she wanted to change her first name, she could. And she changed her first name to mine.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, and a million more thank yous for helping me stay with my parents and my brothers who love me a lot,” her namesake wrote to her when she was 10.
Despite their shared family history, each Goldman was drawn to immigration law for different reasons.
Gloria Goldman was 40 when she decided to go to law school upon her husband’s encouragement.
“He thought it would be interesting, and I thought, ‘Well, let’s see if I can get in,’” she said. “And once you apply, then it’s a mission.”
She went to University of Arizona for law school and graduated in 1990. She opened Gloria A. Goldman, PC in 1991.
She picked immigration as an area of focus given her own identity as an immigrant. It was also an area without much competition.
“At the time, there were only a couple of other lawyers here that did it, so it was a good area to jump into,” she said. She also found it interesting and “took it step by step” to learn the complicated system.
“It’s a mess. And it’s a very hard mess to fix,” she said of the immigration system.
Mo Goldman thought he was going to be a journalist. He studied journalism at Syracuse University, but realized during his junior and senior years that the cut-throat field with limited job opportunities wasn’t for him.
He decided to follow his mom’s example and go to law school. He did some work in her office during some of his summer breaks and got a pretty good idea of what being an immigration attorney would be like.
“I enjoyed helping immigrants and I just felt like it was a good way to make a living and help people,” he said.
After finishing law school at Hofstra University in 2000, he opened his own office in New York. But after a few years, he moved to Arizona for a warmer, slower-paced life, and “it was a natural fit to join in with my mom.”
In 2005, Gloria A. Goldman, PC became Goldman & Goldman, PC.
Larissa Goldman was the last family member to join the law firm, graduating from Arizona State University in 2018.
After being a physical education teacher for nearly 16 years at Prince Elementary School in Tucson, she decided it was time for a change.
Like he did with her mom, her dad suggested she go to law school. And like her mom, Larissa gave it a shot. “I knew that it would only open doors at that point,” she said.
Her family was excited at the idea of her becoming an immigration attorney and then joining the firm, too, but she wasn’t convinced that would be the route she would take.
“I told myself, I would go in with an open mind,” she said. “But as I learned more about law, I liked how immigration kind of combined a little bit of everything.”
She likes that immigration law touches on areas of business law, family law, criminal law and, most of all, she likes that she can help people.
“And doing it with my mom and brother was perfect for me at that point in my life,” she said.
Gloria and Mo work out of an office in Tucson, while Larissa works out of an office in Phoenix. Goldman & Goldman also has a branch in Battery Park City, though they don’t use it very often.
Reflecting on her career, Gloria said she would have laughed if somebody were to have told her when her kids were young that she would end up being an immigration attorney with them.
“It’s just a magical thing,” she said. JN