Indeed, Jemela Agraviador Nettles has been hailed as an immigration expert not only of celebrities but she is a woman and a minority in a field dominated by Anglo males—and is a testament to the power of imagination, empathy and faith.
A multi-awarded lawyer, Jemela passed the Philippine Bar in 1979 and the tough California State Bar in 1994—both on the first take and through self-study alone—and honed her knowledge of immigration law as an associate for a Los Angeles firm.
Her affinity with the performing arts is long. As part of her 12-year stint with the Development Bank of the Philippines , she headed the DBP Choir.
Her first celebrity client was the Eraserheads, for whom she obtained working visas for their US tour. Through word of mouth, celebrity clients started coming for their entertainer’s visas: musician-entertainers Eddie Katindig, Rico J. Puno, Willie Nepomuceno, Rufa Mae Quinto, Jed Madela, Jonalyn Viray, Aria Clemente, and Paolo Santos; the bands Aegis, Black Pearl and Wrecklo; and actors Raymond Bagatsing, Ara Mina, John and Camille Pratts, Marissa Sanchez, Toni Gonzaga, and Jose Manalo, etc.
But what has earned Jemela much praise is her success in getting green cards for singer April Boy Regino and his family under the extraordinary ability category (E1 visa)—in less than a year.
Atty. Nettles has obtained green cards for multi-awarded Filipino artists and professionals, among them actresses Lorna Tolentino and Jolina Magdangal, and singers Miguel Vera, Mon David, Marco Sison, Dingdong Avanzado and Jessa Zaragosa, and of course April Boy Regino—all through extraordinary ability visas.
Her achievements in the field of immigration law and community service have been recognized by the Filipino American community. In 2008, Atty. Nettles was named Woman of the Year by Celebrity Chronicle and Reflections XX.
The key is her imaginative, personalized approach. First, Jemela establishes rapport with her client, making sure to meet him at his level. They then discuss his strengths and weaknesses and long-range plans, and from there devise an approach tailored to achieving success in his chose goal.
Empathy with clients comes naturally to Jemela because she too underwent the travails of an immigrant, starting over in a new land and hurdling the invisible barriers of race and gender. Talking to a client, she understands his story because she has very likely lived each one.
And, in a profession that is fraught with ethical and moral quandaries, Jemela navigates successfully because as she puts it, “my practice is guided by my faith.”
Her family is the source of both identity and inspiration. In 2003, she helped establish the Marilou A. Popera Foundation to honor the memory of her beloved younger sister who died of gastric cancer. Among its projects is a support group for cancer patients and their families, educationalassistance and skills development, building a church and supporting public school children in her hometown, San Miguel, Zamboanga del Norte.
The foundation also serves as a conduit for social services and community projects. And every year, it gives out the Marilou A. Popera Foundation Awards, which recognizes excellence in the performing arts and other worthy fields.The Foundation has been blessed to be the beneficiary of “A Night of Music & Love,” a star-studded concert on Nov. 8 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. The concert featured Dingdong Avanzado, Karlyn Bay , Tirso Cruz III, Mon David, Patricia Javier, Michael Laygo, Leandro Munoz, Louie Reyes, Ella Mae Saison, Marco Sison, and Jessa Zaragoza plus surprise guests. Musical director is Tateng Katindig. Proceeds benefitted the construction of San Miguel Church in Lilloy, Zamboanga del Norte.
American Immigration Lawyers Associations
Los Angeles County Bar Association
American Bar Association
Philippine American Bar Association
Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles