Xavier A. Mendez, owner at the Law Office of Xavier A. Mendez of El Paso, Texas was born and raised in Puerto Rico. His parents taught him that through hard work and determination, anything was possible, a principle he has applied throughout his life, in school, in the military, and in the courtroom.
Mendez shares, “neither of my parents had graduated highschool by the time I was five. My father had a sixth-grade education. My mother quit school to get married at age 15. They migrated to New York City in the 70’s where they learned about the struggles of being an immigrant family without a formal education”.
In 1980, the year he was born, Mendez’ family returned to Puerto Rico. His father, then unemployed with a son and a pregnant wife, had to start from zero. Those disadvantages would set the foundations of Xavier’s character.
“It was during those hard times that I learned the two most important lessons of my life: do not let your circumstances get in the way of your dreams, and that you can only lead by example. My parents never ask me to do something they would not do themselves”, he adds. “I remember my mother telling me that education is something that no one can ever away from you. My father, a self-taught mechanic and my mother, then a housewife enrolled in night school. Through hard work and big sacrifices my father earned his high school diploma. My mother took it a few steps further and finished graduate studies”.
Mendez’ parents did more than giving him a good example of self-achievement. They had raised a daring dreamer, a visionary, and a confident leader. He was still a teenager when he enlisted in the Army Reserves. Mendez confesses, “when I first saw the test to join the military, it looked to me as it was written in Chinese. I barely spoke any English then. I answered most of the questions at random. It might have been good fortune, but with that little English I knew, I managed to passed the test by one percent”.
The real challenge would come however, a few months later when he reported for boot camp not knowing much English.“For at least a month I eat exactly whatever the person next in line at the chow hall had to eat. If he or she asked for meatloaf all I could tell the server was – same, please”. He adds, “but I knew that if I were ever going to make it through boot camp, I could not depend on others nor in good fortune. A man makes his own luck”.
He continues,“they give you this book on your first day at boot camp, that has all the lessons and skills you need to learn in order to graduate. Every night when everybody had gone to bed, I stayed up, studying at the only place in the barracks where no drill sergeant would bother you, the bathroom. I can still feel every muscle of my body aching from the training day; my eyes feeling heavy as I struggle to read”.
As days went by, my English was improving dramatically as well as my self-confidence. Soon, I was occupying leadership roles. By the end of boot camp, I had not only managed to survive, but to my surprise and perhaps to everybody else’s, I graduated with the higher score of the entire group”.
Hard work at the Army’s boot camp didn’t just gave Mendez an honor distinction on graduation day. It gave direction to his life and the morale boost he needed to succeed at the university. “Being away from home and facing the hardships of boot camp is a big challenge, and not knowing good English multiplies that by ten”
At that point it was clear to him that he would become an English teacher so that he could help others expand their horizons and succeed in life. “Teaching is a magical give and take process; the more you give, the more you get in return. Many of my students are now professionals in different disciplines. I can’t express how sublime it feels when one of my former students stops me on the sidewalk and thanks me for having inspired them to succeed”.
Mendez would soon realize that although he loved teaching, and was drawing much personal satisfaction from it, he needed to do something else if he were to leave up to his full potential. “There comes a time in our life’s when we feel a call to do something of higher impact”.
He enrolled in the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico School of Law, and continued teaching English part time. Mendez’ life experiences, military background and his strong will to succeed gave him an edge that was quite uncommon among his peers.
“I was thriving in Law School and looking forward to my senior year, when I received orders to serve in the war in Iraq”.
Mendez’ gaze seems to get lost out his office’s window, as if he’s been carried away by a distant memory… “In every adversity lies the seed of an equivalent advantage” he says still looking at the window. Then he looks at me he and continues, “my life was on auto-pilot towards a bright future”.
I was enjoying every second of it when it all came to an abrupt halt. I had always known that day would come. I had a duty and I was prepared to answer the call, but I have to admit that it was hard letting go all the blessings that I was enjoying at that moment”.
“Iraq has been my most significant life changing experience. It was there that the textbook subject of immigration got a human face for the first time. While some people were fleeing the calamity of war, others were arriving from countries that were in worst shape. They were sub-contracted to do those jobs soldiers won’t do anymore, like cooking, laundry, and so on.
I met countless of them and heard their stories. They were everyday people getting themselves into a war-torn land, armed only with their hopes of a better future for them and their families. It was through their stories that I realized that immigration is an integral part of human nature. Some people say that life’s a journey…it is indeed”.
After serving a year in Iraq Mendez returned to Puerto Rico and finished law school. Three months later he was stationed at Ft. Bliss, El Paso, Texas. “It was so surreal to drive on the interstate, look out the window and see Mexico, then look out the other window and see the United States.
was so fascinated about the fact that you can walk from one country into another, that I had to go and see it myself. In those days’ soldiers were not allowed to travel to Mexico, so I would park on downtown El Paso, walk to the international bridge and spent hours staring at it; I was astonished”.
Seeing hundreds of people coming across the border on that bridge seemed surreal to Mendez, but it doesn’t end there. “I would stand on the left side of the bridge to observe the people coming from Mexico; then switched side to watch the people leaving the United States. I remember trying to make eye contact as they walked by, and see if I could get a sense of what they were experiencing.
Some seemed too exhausted to acknowledge I was standing there; some did not see me at all. But something magical would happen with those who did look at me and returned the smile. Regardless of which direction they were walking to, or their gender, age, color… when we made eye contact, I would see myself in them. I too had migrated in search for meaning; to fulfill my destiny”.
Once again life had unveiled Mendez’ future before his eyes. Seven years had to elapse before he finished his military service and see his biggest dream become a reality: to establish a successful law practice as an immigration lawyer in El Paso, Texas.
“This is the part of the story that turns into present as we speak. It has been a long journey to get to where I am now, yet this is the dawn of a new beginning”.
Sitting so close to Mendez as he delivers his final message to his audience one can feel the strong energy of a man with a clear vision of the future; a person who has an honest concern for others and who loves what he does for a living.
“Here at the Law Office of Xavier A. Mendez we’ve made a commitment to offer the most efficient and transparent immigration legal service of El Paso, Texas.”
Regardless of your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation or religious belief, if you have a true desire to succeed in life and are willing to do whatever it legally takes to secure a better future for yourself and your loved ones, then I am your Immigration Lawyer.