Mercedes Cano, Immigration Lawyer
by Rahinur Akther
Mar 28, 2013 | 3616 views | 0 0 comments | 98 98 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mercedes Cano
Mercedes Cano
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Some 42 years ago, when Mercedes Cano first arrived in the United States as an undocumented and non-English speaker from Colombia, she could not imagine becoming a future immigration lawyer in Jackson Heights.

“Life was tough,” said Ms. Cano, who shared an apartment with her aunt in the Bronx when she first arrived.

Without legal status, she took any job she could get, including cleaning houses and factory work.

When she finally was granted her documents, she drove a New York City taxicab for 10 years and went on to work at the post office for another 10 years.

In 1991, she began taking classes at Queens College and in 1996 graduated cum laude.

After that, she earned her law degree from CUNY Law School in 1999.

Before graduating from law school, she founded Centro Comunitario y de Asesoria Legal, Inc., a non-profit organization in Jackson Heights that educates immigrants about their legal and civil rights. After running the non-profit for four years, she opened her law office.

Last January, Cano took the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at LaGuardia Community College, which elevated her business and pitch skills.

“I tell my colleagues that this program will make a difference in their business,” she said.

By the second class, she discovered that her law practice was indeed a small business.

“All along, I thought that I simply had to be a lawyer,” she said. “10,000 Small Businesses made me realize that I also had to be a businesswoman. It changed my mind and my perspective.”

With her new outlook, Cano said she is ready to branch out. She has set her sites on a satellite office on Park Avenue South and is already cultivating networks in Manhattan to make that move possible.

“I was not making signs or cleaning office buildings,” said Cano, but “I was providing a service to the neighborhood’s residents. I never thought of my community law practice as a small business.”

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