Growing up, Tatiauna Holland knew the exact career path she wanted to follow. She was destined to become a lawyer.
“I was one of those weird, serious kids who knew what I wanted to do. I went straight from undergrad at the University of New Orleans to law school at Southern University Law Center. After graduation, I thought Texas would be a great place to work, and Houston was the best place to start. I was lucky enough to start with a job in immigration and lawsuits,” she says.
The up-and-comer wasted no time in making her mark. For the first three years of her career, Holland practiced law at a firm where she worked on cases in several states and got lots of great experience. But over time, she felt herself being pulled toward a specific sector of the law.
“I was gravitating toward asylum, and I was interested in [helping] young women who had children and were taking children across the border,” Holland says. “These women had been sexually violated, and there was no recourse for them. So, that’s when I went into my solo practice in 2016.”
Out of that desire, Holland Law Firm, PLLC was born. Headquartered in a Northside Houston office park, the firm represents clients with immigration issues including deportation defense, asylum, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), citizenship and naturalization, and adjustment of status.
It’s been a career choice that has kept Holland’s schedule filled. She spends part of her time working pro bono to provide a voice to people who are unable to find an attorney or have been given false information about their rights by Customs and Border Protection agents.
“We try to explain the process, give them legal advice, and prepare them for the interview and process. Other times, we advise them [when] they don’t have a good case for asylum. Asylum is a narrow form of relief. There’s a low percentage of people who qualify for that. People typically suffer severe persecution and torture to qualify,” Holland says.
Lately, her practice has turned its focus to the fight against police brutality. Following the nationwide protests seen in response to the death of George Floyd and so many other Black Americans, Holland’s law firm began taking the cases of protesters who have been exercising their First Amendment rights to seek justice and reform. She has also partnered with firms in other cities to form a coalition of attorneys who represent people who have suffered wrongdoing at the hands of police.
Recently, the coalition took on the Dallas police. “There have been lawsuits for relief for people who have been harmed [by the police],” she says, referencing an injunction on Dallas police that her team enacted. “We stopped them from using rubber bullets or projectiles during peaceful protests as a means of crowd control. One person lost an eye; another lost mobility in their legs. But the protestors weren’t harming the police. That’s why it was so big.”
The work hit close to home, too. Holland says she was excited when she first heard about the Houston protests, and she even became a legal observer. “There was a lot of talk about how peaceful [the Houston protests have been]. But it appeared that the Houston Police Department was rounding people up, which made me really angry,” she says. “Then, I started getting calls. [There] were a lot of 20- and 21-year-olds who didn’t know what the police could and could not do to them,” she says.
Naturally, Holland is doing her part to help. “Right now, we’re in the investigation stage in Houston. We’re reaching out to the public to see if people have been harmed in local protests. Next, we’ll be doing a bigger marketing push to see if we can find people who need legal representation,” she says.
Helping people has always been in Holland’s wheelhouse, and it’s something she hopes to expand in the future. “I would like to push more for criminal-justice reform. It’s unfortunate that it’s started to intertwine with immigration. People are being detained for months to years with no resolution and no criminal charges. That’s where my practice is going. We have to hold the people in power accountable. You can’t lock up citizens because you don’t like their look or voice.”
For now, Holland feels her work is making a difference. She applauds people for utilizing their right to make their voices heard, and encourages others to help however they can.
“I think the people will continue to protest. This generation has been revitalized, and it’s cool to see people from all demographics say ‘Black Lives Matter’ and show their support in different ways. Attorneys need to put themselves out there and dedicate their time to help, too,” she says. “If you don’t practice criminal law, partner with someone who does. As long as there are legal resources, people will keep fighting for social change.”
Find out more about Holland Law Firm, PLLC by calling 832-328-7877 or visiting hollandimmigrationlaw.com.
This article appears in the July 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.