Tremaine Hemans makes a difference in US immigration law
It is with great knowledge and understanding that Tremaine Hemans has been able to champion the cause of the international judicial system, with the hope of making a difference.
“I currently practise United States immigration law, representing clients in all 50 states in US immigration law as well as around the world. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I, by and large, run a virtual practice. I came to the states as an international student and was immediately immersed in the injustice of the broken US immigration system. I had to navigate my way through almost a decade before becoming a US citizen. Any migrant who is placed at the mercy of this system will tell you that you are hard pressed to find a bigger bully than that,” she told The Sunday Gleaner.
She explained that when she entered law school, she was one of five black students out of a class of 135. “I immediately questioned my place in my class and whether I would be able to make it,” Hemans confessed. So, following law school, she created the website legallytrem.com. This was designed to be a safe place for any law student struggling with imposter syndrome like she did, allowing them to engage in open and honest conversation with a mentor and big sister who understood that they were not alone.
“Through this programme, I have helped law students from around the world develop a stronger sense of self, learn useful tips on studying and obtaining internships, and I am proud to say that I have helped a number of mentees pass the bar exam, one of whom even started her own law practice as well! They will always jokingly say #TremTaughtMe every time a new challenge arose and they beat it,” she added
Despite her mentorship wins, her favourite accomplishment to date is speaking on local television about critical race theory. For her, the journey has come full circle from her days of watching the programme while getting ready for school. Being able to give little girls in her tiny community an example of what staying in school, excelling and achieving your career goals look like is something that this lawyer will never forget. “I still get emotional thinking about that,” she reflected, adding, “I have also been chosen for two 40 under 40 lists of black professionals as a 2023 Super Lawyers Rising Star.”
Born and raised in St Ann by my mother Donna and stepfather Paul, she lived with them and her little sister Raven until she was 11. “I remember my mother being very strict and adamant about the importance of doing well in school. I went through many challenges in my young life but the one thing I could control was school, so I excelled in classes at all stages.”
Her mother soon migrated to the states and when she was 15, she moved in with a member of her church, who she describes as mother’s surrogate mother, Mavis Telphia, along with her husband. “Mrs Telphia taught me the importance of having faith in God and showed me care and affection.”She also made special mention of Ms Lydia, the owner of the bookstore within her community, who allowed her as a young avid reader to get lost in books for hours over the weekend.
After graduating from the St Hilda’s Diocesan High School in Brown’s Town, St Ann, she migrated, arriving in the states at the age of 17. On the cusp of adulthood, Hemans recounted experiencing culture shock at its core. “I was different from them. I spoke differently, dressed differently, so assimilating into the new culture was a bit challenging.”
Luckily, she settled in South Florida, which has been home to a hub of Caribbean immigrants as well. Many Jamaicans consider it an extension of the island. “I made friends with other Jamaican immigrants ... who helped to ease the transition,” she added.
On the scholastic front, she enrolled in a community college, attaining two associate’s degrees before reading for her bachelor’s and Juris Doctor degree.
“I took a step back by obtaining a second associate’s degree while all of my friends had matriculated to a four-year college. Many times, I wanted to give up and was told by others to aim a little lower but I stayed focused and beat the odds,” she shared. Each menial job taught her the true value of hard work and how to deal with and manage customers and co-workers.
But that didn’t stop onlookers from negatively commenting on her life choices. “I went from working as a deli clerk in a supermarket, where friends I grew up with would tell me ‘I can’t believe this is what your life came to’; to working two jobs at a furniture store and as a receptionist while going to school at night. No matter what, I never gave up on my dream.”
Drawing inspiration from Casey Novack in episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Maxine Shaw from Living Single. Something, she said, clicked and moved her to pursue this career as it was her calling. “My parents will tell you that when I was younger, I could sell bacon to a pig, and all my school reports said, ‘She does her work but lawd, she can chat’.”
As a proud graduate of Florida International University, she lauded the school for its stellar law programme. “The programme at FIU College of Law is excellent and I am proud to say I left equipped with the skills necessary to succeed as a young lawyer.”
She opened The Hemans Law Group on May 1, 2021 and has become a new woman because of her business. These days, she considers her career as nothing short of amazing.
“I have always had a strong sense of self and I learned within a year of becoming a licensed attorney that I did not want to work for someone else. After opening my practice, several opportunities have come my way. The greatest of which has been receiving recognition from the Florida Supreme Court for my pro bono efforts in mentoring young aspiring attorneys and providing low-cost representation to survivors of domestic violence who are being abused by their US citizen or permanent resident spouses or parents.”
Her clients are her reason for getting up each morning, and she is grateful for the opportunity to fight for the rights of others who are sitting in the shoes she once filled, with the hope of achieving great things in their lives.
“I have the best support system a woman could ask for. My husband, family, mentors and friends have cheered me on every step of the way and showed up for me in the way that matters. Having people who do not question whether you are able to do what you say you want to do, but help in any small way they can, or just pray for you along the way is so important and I am very fortunate to have a vast and loving support system.”
Although she resides in the US, she returns to her roots every chance she gets. “I stay very connected with my roots. Jamaica remains my place of solace and much of my family remains on the island. In law school I would return after every semester to be spoiled by my dad and the rest in the crisp Moneague air. I love the north coast; there is a different charm to my parish that we, St Ann natives, have, and I don’t intend to be disconnected from it.”
Her advice to those seeking to pursue law as a career is to chase that dream relentlessly. “If this is what you want to do, it is possible if you work hard and position yourself in places to receive opportunities. I am a girl from a lower middle-class family; the daughter of a JDF soldier and a home-maker in rural Moneague. If I can, so can you.”