“My passion is immigration law,” says Sheree Wright, founding partner of IBF Law Group. “As an immigrant myself, I wanted to build a firm that is immigrant friendly as well as supportive to the underserved community. It was also important to me to hire individuals from diverse backgrounds. I’m an immigrant first and a lawyer second.”
Born in New Kingston, Jamaica, Wright was not quite 10 years old when her family immigrated to this country. While the move initially held excitement and promise, it wasn’t long before the young girl encountered the travail of being “different.”
“When we first moved here, I still had an accent and the kids would make fun of me,” she recalls. “I was actually bullied a lot and there was always the feeling of being misunderstood and underrepresented as an immigrant. Those experiences certainly impacted my decision to focus on immigration law. I recall making a conscious decision at a very young age that I never wanted anyone else to feel that way.”
Perhaps it was also those early childhood experiences that bolstered Wright’s already indominable spirit and helped her power through any obstacles along the way. She maintains that starting her own firm was always at the forefront of her mind.
“I’ve always been a person who thinks outside the box,” she says. “When you work in a big corporation it’s not only hard to think outside the box, it’s actively frowned upon. So, I knew I’d never be comfortable working in that kind of environment. I do my best work when I feel free. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to do my own thing and build my own kind of practice.
“My interest in immigration law came quite naturally,” Wright continues. “Aside from my obvious personal involvement in the experience, as I grew older and more aware, I recognized a dearth of genuine immigration attorneys and connected my passion to that need.”
With clear objectives and a realistic sense of self, Wright’s journey to this objective was both edifying and empathetic. A graduate of DePaul University with a Bachelor of Science degree in political science, she started her legal education at ASLS and earned her juris doctorate and Master of Law at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. During her undergraduate years Wright worked as an investigator with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) in Chicago.
“My work with the EEOC primarily focused on investigating cases involving employment discrimination,” she says. “Then, during my law school career I cofounded a nonprofit called The Wright Way Foundation whose purpose is to seek ways to reduce poverty and homelessness while generating and providing educational resources to support youths, family groups and educators in Jamaica.”
The Wright Way Foundation seeks to generate and sustain interest in the financial development of underserved young people with practical resources and hands-on experience that will ideally enable them to pursue their own future interests and endeavors. As a significant part of her heritage, helping improve circumstances in Jamaica has continued to be something very dear to Wright.
“I’m proud to say that the foundation makes a valuable contribution to civil society in Jamaica,” she says, “particularly with regard to social and educational outreach projects with local orphanages and educational institutions.”
Helping others seems second nature to this energetic young attorney. Even while actively building a burgeoning practice Wright still stays actively involved in many community organizations including one that is particularly significant to her, Mi Familia Vota. As a volunteering member of this national civic engagement organization that unites Latinos, immigrants and allied communities to promote social and economic justice, Wright assists with such projects as conducting citizenship workshops, voter registration and developing voter participation.
When asked about this extensive service work Wright smiles knowingly and responds, “Experience makes the best teacher.”
“My clients love me,” Wright says with a smile in her voice, “they are amazing.” It’s not a brag, but fact. Those who find their way to IBF Law Group tend to carry the weight and sorrow of years of struggle, misunderstanding and sometimes even hopelessness, and find a champion in Wright. Her dedication and desire to help are easily apparent.
Wright’s goals when embarking on the task of opening a new firm were clear and straight-forward. “I just wanted to make sure not to fail,” she says with humility. “The lives of the people I represent weigh heavily on me and it’s a responsibility I take quite seriously. I also am very cognizant of my duty to my employees, to grow at a pace that ensures I keep them on and make sure their OK. My goal is to just take care of these individuals, clients and employees, whom I’ve been entrusted to support.”
Still a relatively new firm, IBF has nevertheless grown in both stature and reputation. Building on the firm’s motto: “Our Word. Our Bond. We’ve Got Your Back.” Wright and her associates have always adhered to her original precepts of respecting and supporting those who need it most. Representing clients throughout the country, IBF provides counsel for a variety of legal verticals in addition to immigration law. These areas include business, family, sport, entertainment and employment law.
Bringing decades of combined experience, IBF attorneys zealously fight for the rights of their clients in some of the toughest and most complex situations. Implementing modern technology and digital media, they ensure not only complete, clear and consistent communication but are able to keep expenses to a minimum.
While reluctant to become bogged down or unnecessarily distracted by politics, Wright freely expresses her opinion regarding our current immigration system.
“Basically, it’s a joke,” she says candidly. “The rules are constantly changing and drastic. It’s hard enough for immigrants to navigate an already complicated system, but then to have it constantly in flux depending on who or which party is in office is both ridiculous and cruel. Hopeful immigrants are told to ‘go through the proper channels’ yet those channels are more like jumping through hoops and they keep moving the target.”
Wright says that contrary to negative statements frequently made by our country’s leaders, the majority of immigrants are not rushing to the United States for criminal or nefarious reasons but rather to seek asylum or simply have the opportunity at a better life.
“Many immigrants are literally running for their lives,” she says passionately. “Persecution is a very real threat as is crushing poverty and lack of even the most basic human rights. The U.S. used to welcome those who sought the unique and blessed lifestyle privileges we enjoy, unfortunately ignorance and prejudice has made many Americans consider immigrant a bad word.”
Always very self-aware and striving to improve herself, Wright acknowledges that the subject of immigration is one that stirs her deepest passion. Having experienced this first-hand and being an attorney who becomes very hands-on with her clients, separating personal feelings from professional is still difficult.
“What I have had to overcome, and I am still working on, is my emotion,” she says. “Immigration law is a very heart wrenching area of practice, especially in this administration where there are so many new laws being implemented to stop migrants from crossing the border. It’s hard not to become emotionally involved when we’re talking about individuals and families who quite literally, have run out of options. For them, immigrating is a question of life or death.”
Deportation law obviously goes hand-in-hand with immigration law and is another area where Wright is not only well-versed but equally motivated. “There are few situations in life more severe and emotional than a threat of deportation and being forced to leave your loved ones behind,” she says. “Each deportation situation is unique, and some involve both immigration and criminal courts. Our firm has extensive experience with all types of deportation situations and aggressively advocates on behalf of our clients. We take the time to evaluate the situation and help our clients understand the immigration, and possibly criminal, laws that apply.”
Sensitive to the unique needs of clients who come to IBF Law, Wright says that she and her staff make special accommodations particularly when it comes to any possible language barriers.
“We understand that many of our clients speak languages other than English,” she says. “In order to provide the most effective legal representation and communication possible, we have a Spanish interpreter on staff and can provide an interpreter in any other language. We communicate with our clients frequently and keep them updated on the status of their case at every stage of the legal process.”
FOCUS ON FAMILY
Again, heralding back to the fact that Wright herself came to this country as a small child leaving extended family behind, she remains acutely cognizant of how it feels to venture into a foreign world without the comfort of loved ones. While she was fortunate to made the move with her parents and siblings, Wright says she still understands and can empathize with those who are already living in the U.S. but work towards the day they can bring their family members together again. She’s also very aware of how difficult this process can be but works tirelessly with her clients to help them achieve this precious goal.
“The family-based immigration system is complex, and the rules vary depending on your status and the relationship between you and the person you wish to sponsor,” she explains. “At IBF Law Group, we understand the desire to bring family members to the United States and the legal hurdles that must be cleared to make this possible. We work with U.S. citizens, permanent residents and individuals with refugee status to obtain visas for their close family members. As immigrants ourselves, we have extensive knowledge of the immigration process and a strong desire to advocate for our clients and reunite families.”
Although IBF Law offers legal representation in a variety of areas besides immigration-related issues, family is still at the heart of this firm. From the careful selection of associates, experts and specialists with whom they work, to the day-to-day interactions among the staff and with their clients, it’s a group who quite unabashedly lead with their hearts.
“Success, at least for me, cannot and should not be defined in terms of income or financial gain,” says Wright. “How many lives have I impacted and changed for the better? How have I used my education and training to serve those who are most in need? Ultimately, even though to some cynics it might sound trite, the successful outcome for our clients is our number one priority. We have not only the experience and expertise, but a deep, sincere compassion for everyone seeking our help.”