Guest blog: Diversity in the American dream

Blog post by Sheela Murthy

Sheela Murthy is a lawyer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and speaker, perhaps best known as founder and president of the Owings Mills, Maryland based Murthy Law Firm, which has been ranked as one of the world’s leading U.S. immigration law firms.

A native of India, Murthy and her husband, photographer and media specialist Vasant Nayak, established the MurthyNAYAK Foundation to channel their philanthropic contributions to nonprofits that serve the needs of women, children, and immigrants, particularly in education and health care.

 

I am a living embodiment of the American dream. I do not say that with an air of arrogance. Rather, when I say I am the American dream, I do so with a truly humble recognition of how blessed I have been to have immigrated to the United States and achieved a level of success that would have been all-but-impossible in my native country of India.

In 1994, I launched my own solo immigration law practice in the small Maryland suburb of Owings Mills. At first, I ran my business from my dining room table at home. Eventually, I moved to a tiny office with a photocopier and receptionist that I had to share with several other tenants. Today, the Murthy Law Firm, my once fledgling practice, employs over 100 people and helps foreign nationals around the world live out their own version of the American dream.

It wasn’t easy building my firm up from a struggling solo practice to an immigration law powerhouse that changes the lives of our clients every day. But I was driven to succeed by my own perspective as an immigrant. The process of securing lawful permanent residency (commonly referred to as a green card), took more than four years. Throughout that long, arduous, and expensive journey, I was treated as a statistic – a way for my immigration attorney to increase his billable hours instead of a unique individual whose hopes, dreams, knowledge, and passion can contribute to this great nation.

I wanted my own clients to have a different experience as they navigate their way through the complex world of immigration law. They deserve someone who recognizes that immigrants are not a monolith to be feared, judged, or exploited. Rather, they are a diverse and varied community of students, employees, entrepreneurs, and caretakers. They are our friends, neighbors, and co-workers. They are an integral part of the fabric of these extraordinary United States. The past few years have been especially precarious for our nation’s immigrants, but they are still traveling to our shores and starting businesses, raising families, and amplifying local economies.

In 2014, Maryland’s nearly one million immigrants paid over $3 billion in state and local taxes, while comprising almost 20 percent of our labor force and wielding close to $25 billion in after-tax spending power. There is a reason why our state’s immigrant population, as well as immigrant communities all over the country, can achieve success and contribute at such high levels. Immigrants are steadfastly resilient and unwavering in their desire to take advantage of every opportunity this nation has to offer. If that doesn’t epitomize the very essence of the American dream, what does?


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