When Graham Ojala-Barbour was still a teen, he took a job at a Northfield restaurant where many of the kitchen workers were undocumented. After one co-worker was deported “for what seemed like no reason,” Ojala-Barbour says he started to think about how he could do to help.
His interest in immigration law was ramped up at the University of Minnesota Law School and later, after a fellowship at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, the die was cast.
“I never applied at any of the big firms because I knew that wasn’t what I felt passionate about, or what I’d even be able to get myself up in the morning to do,” Ojala-Barbour explains.
Following a brief stint in the office of another immigration attorney, Ojala-Barbour, who was just three years out of law school at the time, hung up a shingle in St. Paul. As a solo practitioner, Ojala-Barbour says he has come to realize that “helping one person at a time can be very satisfying.”
While some heartbreak is unavoidable in the practice area, Ojala-Barbour says he performs a valuable service even for clients for whom no relief is available under current immigration law. “When you can’t help, you know it and you don’t give them false hope,” he explains.
In his spare time, Ojala-Barbour likes to write creative fiction and, as befits his Finnish heritage, indulges his love for the sauna.