Margaret Wong may look back, but she never stops moving forward.
“You come full circle. By the time you’re in your 60’s, you know what you can do, you accept what you can’t do, and you accept what God gave you,” said Margaret. “It is what it is.”
“Now at my stage of life, I really care about my clients. I really care that they have enough faith in me to help them out,” she said.
Forty years after she moved to Cleveland, Margaret has loved and lost her husband, Kam Chan, raised two smart kids, and become a national leader in immigration law. It’s a long way from where she started.
“I came from Hong Kong with like $200…in my pocket. With four suitcases and a little sister, at the age of 19. In those days we needed to survive,” said Wong. They both had scholarships to the University of Iowa.
Hong Kong was still a British colony in her youth. She was born Catholic, and learned much from her upbringing. “I had a lot of women mentors who went to England to go to law school. So I always thought, ‘I’ll be like them one day.’ My whole life. I see all these girls becoming lawyers, and I thought, one day, I want to be a lawyer,” she said.
Her first job after law school brought her to Cleveland. “I got a job with Central National Bank. I was their credit analyst. That’s how I became a very good financial person,” she said.
And in 1977, Margaret W. Wong and Associates opened up shop. “I stated doing immigration because I had no other clients, because I kept getting fired from my jobs. So by 1978, ‘79, only the immigrants hired me to do their work.”
“I lucked into it, because in those days, nobody really does immigration. It’s lower than criminal law. It’s really lower than family practice. And because I, myself, was foreign, I know what they want. So I lucked into it,” Margaret said. “It’s God’s will and luck.”
Now she travels between offices in seven cities, advising her clients in the old-fashioned ways and new ones, too, on YouTube, in podcasts and Chinese radio spots.
“I really realized that a lawyer’s job with a doctor’s job is so parallel. You have to care. You have to love. And you can’t save all of them. But whatever you can do and help them, it’s really fulfilling. One life. One at a time,” said Wong.
With immigration a buzz word in 2016, she’s watching the presidential election closely.
“Ultimately, the president doesn’t have that much power in immigration. It’s all by Homeland Security, by the bureaucracy. Ultimately, the president is only one person,” she says. She wants policy to pave the way for more immigrants to find the American Dream.
“In my work, I would not change anything. I would not. I’m very happy with my clients, with my colleagues, with my partners, with my work. I wish I wrote another two books. Every time I wrote half of a book, I said, ‘No that’s no good,” and I changed it. So I wish I wrote more books,” she said, agreeing, maybe there’s more time for that in her future.