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When Jos� Pertierra describes his legal career, he quotes the Cuban national hero Jos� Mart�: “With the poor people of the world I want to share my lot.” The 54-year-old founder of two-lawyer Pertierra & Toro devotes himself to helping workers from Latin America and elsewhere resolve their immigration difficulties. But he’s also had a role in some very high-profile cases in recent years, including the tempest over Eli�n Gonz�lez, who was plucked from the sea in 1999, and the ongoing deportation proceedings against Luis Posada Carriles, who allegedly blew up a Cuban passenger plane in 1976. “We could not have found a better lawyer,” says Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States. Venezuela is trying to extradite Posada, a naturalized citizen of that country, and try him for downing the aircraft and killing 73 people. (Cuba lacks an extradition treaty with the United States.) In the meantime, Posada sits in custody in Texas but has only been charged with entering this country without proper papers in 2005. Last week a federal magistrate recommended that Posada be released from detention. “The United States government either needs to extradite him or prosecute him,” says Pertierra. “The government wants to treat him as if he were a simple undocumented worker who was coming to pick artichokes in California.” Posada is asking for U.S. citizenship because he served as an active-duty soldier in Vietnam and was a paid agent of the U.S. government in Nicaragua. U.S. government lawyers have suggested sending Posada to any country but Cuba or Venezuela, a proposal that Pertierra derides as “passing the hot potato.” Alvarez, the Venezuelan ambassador, dubs Pertierra “a really talented man” and says he has effectively communicated the position of the Venezuelan government to the American public. “He understands both cultures,” says Alvarez. The ambassador also praises Pertierra as “a very human kind of lawyer.” Alvarez says: “I’m really impressed with the number of people from all over Latin America that he has helped. He is very committed to the cause of justice.” Pertierra was born in Cuba and came to the United States when he was 10, shortly after the revolution. “My mother saw the perfect opportunity to get away from her mother-in-law,” he says, laughing. He grew up in Los Angeles and earned a master’s degree in philosophy before enrolling in George Washington University School of Law at night. During the day, Pertierra worked as a legal assistant for Robert Ades & Associates, providing legal services, much of them involving immigration matters, for union members. Pertierra received his law degree in 1984, spent a year at the Ades firm as an associate, and then launched his own practice. “Life is a gamble,” he says. “I figured I’d have to rough it for a while.” But he soon attracted clients, many of them looking to bring family members from their home countries to the United States. In addition, he defends people facing deportation and helps others change their immigration status to that of permanent resident of the United States. Pertierra has also been involved in a series of high-profile human rights cases. He represented Jennifer Harbury, a Harvard-educated lawyer who married a Guatemalan guerrilla commander who was captured, tortured, and killed by the Guatemalan government in 1992. Harbury successfully sued the government of Guatemala at the Inter-American Commission; she was awarded an undisclosed sum in compensation as well as attorney fees. Working pro bono, Pertierra represented Ursiline nun Dianna Ortiz, an American citizen who was living in a convent in Guatemala. In 1989 she was captured by Guatemalan security forces, tortured, and raped. Pertierra again brought a case against the government of Guatemala before the Inter-American Commission, which found on Ortiz’s behalf. But in terms of publicity, no case has topped that of Eli�n Gonz�lez. Pertierra was part of the team representing Eli�n’s father, Juan Miguel Gonz�lez. He sees the case in plain terms: “The only person that can speak for a 7-year-old child is a parent. . . . Where the boy lives is up to the father, not the government.” Pertierra recalls a private conversation he had with Juan the day he arrived in the United States, in 2000. He asked the Cuban waiter why he didn’t stay in America, where he could almost certainly earn millions by selling his story. “He said, �I want to live in Cuba. I love Cuba. I love my job and my hometown.’ It wasn’t a pre-planned speech. It was a simple declaration of love for his hometown by a simple guy.” And helping people live and work where they want to is what Pertierra does.

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