My Toughest Case: Elena Pecoraro
As an immigrant from Santiago, Chile, Lafayette attorney Elena Pecoraro brings a unique perspective to the naturalization process she uses to help her clients in immigration cases.
After becoming an American citizen as a teenager, Pecoraro studied chemical engineering at LSU. But after graduating, she put aside her initial plans of going to med school to try law school instead. She enjoyed articulating her thoughts and opinions on issues.
Most of Pecoraro’s immigration clients are people who are in the United States legally and who simply want to modify or extend their visas. Occasionally, she will get a call from someone who is in the country illegally while working for American citizens, and Pecoraro guides them to resolve their problems according to the law.
“We’re trying help people be here legally, and do the right thing,” Pecoraro said.
One of Pecoraro’s most memorable clients was a woman who was seeking asylum in the U.S. In her home country, the woman was subjected to discrimination and persecution for being a woman. Pecoraro admired her client’s bravery in sharing the horrors she endured and taking such a risk in coming to the U.S. It was such a scary situation that Pecoraro cannot even reveal where her client was from because of the fear of reprisals. The client is a well-known figure in her native land, so the need for secrecy and discretion is paramount. Pecoraro successfully argued the woman’s case and she has been in America for over five years.
Pecoraro said the safety the U.S. offers people is something many of its native citizens take for granted. When Pecoraro was born in Chile, it was a dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet. Many asylum seekers are fleeing similarly difficult situations in their countries.
“People go through so much and are desperate to be in a place with certain protections and rights,” Pecoraro said.
While Pecoraro does a lot of work in immigration law, it is not the only type of law she practices. Perhaps, unsurprisingly for a chemical engineering major, Pecoraro is drawn to environmental defense and toxic tort litigation. She has worked at defending railroad companies after train derailments. She said many Americans have the misconception that corporations are indifferent to the environment and the effects of environmental issues on citizens.
“I have been blessed to work with railroad companies who truly do care about the environment,” Pecoraro said.
When Pecoraro is not practicing the law, she enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter and Australian Labradoodle.
She is an avid world traveler who enjoys experiencing different cultures, recently visiting Thailand and Singapore.