Jamaican lawyer assists needy

Immigration Attorney Rodney R. Austin in his NYC office.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

For the last six years, Rodney Austin has been giving back to his community by hosting annual children’s event in his village of St. Ann, Jamaica. The immigration attorney felt a sense of pride and accomplishment, and as such felt the need to help, by stocking backpacks with school supplies to share among the less fortunate kids in his neighborhood.

This all began when Austin walked into a NYC post office one Christmas, and read some of the letters that kids had written to Santa asking for special gift to cheer them up. He continued the tradition for many years.

However, at the encouragement of his friends, and family, Austin began to share his joy with children in Jamaica, and has since, supplied more than 500 children with the necessary tools to educate themselves just like he did growing up in the island nation.

Now a partner in the law firm of Lewis Austin Partners – that deals in a broad litigation practice with experience in Immigration, Matrimonial Law, Commercial Litigation and General Litigation, Austin is committed to sharing his skill to help teens who want to enter the legal field. He credits his parents for instilling in him the importance of education.

“I was not happy when my mother left me in Jamaica to finish high school, but now I understand why she made that sacrifice,” said Austin.

During an interview at his 1001 Avenue of the Americas in NYC, 4th Floor office, the 13-year law veteran who has won numerous cases, spoke of the perilous times undocumented immigrants face in America and hopes that immigration reform passes with a path to citizenship.

Austin who came to United States when he was 18, and joined the military one-year after, but it was after he held the rank of supply specialist, did he experienced the unfairness prisoners faced at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where there was influx of Haitians and Cubans.

This reminded him of the racism he had faced while stationed in Texas and Virginia, and gave him the courage to speak out – a valiant move that got him elected to represent single soldiers after he returned from Korea.

Austin who was inspired by famed lawyer, Johnny Cochran, had never entered a courthouse in Jamaica, but was motivated to become a lawyer to represent those who were helpless against the law.

He graduated from St. John’s University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, before obtaining his Juris Doctor at Thomas M. Cooley law school to practice in New York State and the District Courts for the Eastern and Southern Districts. He then interned with Legal Aid but was unhappy with arguing for a better jail sentence for his young clients.

He practiced insurance defense, but realized that his calling was in immigration law because of his knowledge of immigration forms he had filled out many times in Jamaica for family and neighbors.

“When you help someone to obtain a Green Card, the emotions that you go through is indescribable,” explained Austin, who recalls being hoisted in the air by a Nigerian client after a judge said ‘welcome to the United States.”

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