Meeting Deanna Piña

Sep 14, 2021

Meet Deanna Piña. The toootally quiet Texas native who has a splash of Puerto Rican blood! Find out how her background helped shape her into the immigration lawyer she is today!


Tracy Hightower-Henne: So we have Deanna Piña. She is another attorney in our office at Hightower Reef Law, and we feel it’s important that you all know about Deanna.

Deanna Piña: Yeah. So welcome. Oh, I’m glad to be here.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yes. And I think it’s important to know that we usually record these in the morning. And I don’t know. I think it’s important to know that we’re recording this in the afternoon. So it’s like all the fields are different.

Deanna Piña: Yeah, the sun is out. Yeah, the tank is clean. We’re way, way in Finding Nemo. They say the sun is out of the tank is clean. It’s like a big Oh, so the tank is clean. Oh, anyway.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: And as we were talking about this podcast, we’re jumping right in that when we talk about the tank and Finding Nemo DNA and I have both this huge love of the ocean. Yeah. So like, how did your love of the ocean start?

Deanna Piña: So my mom is from the beautiful, perfect island of Puerto Rico. So and my whole family still lives there. So we have always had a very healthy love and respect for the ocean. I’m from Texas, so I have never in my life gone more than six months without seeing the ocean.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Oh, is that still true now?

Deanna Piña: Now that I live in Nebraska, it’s more like every year, but I try to go as much as possible.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Oh, shoot. So when was the last time you’ve seen the ocean?

Deanna Piña: You know, the last time I was in Puerto Rico, which was like two years ago?

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Oh, no,

Deanna Piña: But I’m going back in December, so it’ll be great. Ok, good family. Good. Good.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Good. So you like the ocean in the sense of like just being there and being on the beach?

Deanna Piña: Yeah, I love every ocean creature. I haven’t eaten fish for over 10 years. I eat every other meat, just not fish. We had this conversation

Tracy Hightower-Henne: About how I just ate octopus last week. Yeah, and you were like, No,

Deanna Piña: It was a sore subject. Yeah.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: I don’t actually really like octopus flavor, but it was like a delicacy at this restaurant and I thought, Oh, well, I’ll try it. But I do like to eat fish,

Deanna Piña: And you just went scuba diving.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yes, that’s where my love of the ocean came from. Learning how to scuba dive and then like, you get underwater and you’re like, Oh my God, you feel like you’re in an aquarium. It’s a

Deanna Piña: Totally different

Tracy Hightower-Henne: World. You kind of are. Yeah, yeah. I mean, the ocean. Yeah, right, right. But I think I shared with you that I’m the total nerd that has the fish identification cards that are waterproof. So like, you take them down and you’re like, Hold on a second, let me identify which fish. Oh, that’s the parrot fish.

Deanna Piña: I literally have the Audubon Society Fish Identification Guide pocket version, but it’s on my bookshelf. Is it waterproof? No, it’s paper. Yeah, it wasn’t well planned by it. No.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: How are you identifying fish? Oh, unless you’re like in an an aquarium, you’re not scuba diving. Yes. Well, all the love to the ocean and the ocean creatures. But I did see the largest loggerhead turtle in Mexico. When I was scuba diving last week, I would cry well and I told you, it’s so hard to have emotional reactions underwater because you have this big thing in your mouth that you’re breathing out of and then you have this mask on your face. You don’t want to get water in right. And also, like no one can hear you and I often underwater will go, and that’s the only noise you can make. And you’re like screaming in your regulator and then you’re looking around and you’re like, Is anyone else seeing this? And then you’re like, trying to get everyone else’s attention, you know, like, forget it. I’m just going to watch the turtle. I don’t care if they’re seeing it, which

Deanna Piña: I think makes it more special in that it’s like a unique experience that only you have. Like you’re sharing it, but you’re also the only one who will ever know what that was like, you know? And so that makes it even more special. Yeah, I think yes.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So and also DNA and I both are Spanish speaking people. Yes, much better than I am.

Deanna Piña: I have about 20 extra years of experience.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yes, you do. Yeah, but it’s funny because I’ve learned the vocabulary of most of the marine species. So yeah, yeah, Tortuga and Tiburon.

Deanna Piña: Yeah, octopus in food is poupon.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yes, yes. So yeah, that’s not a vocabulary that most people are like, Oh, and I know the word for mermaid, which is Serrana,

Deanna Piña: It somehow doesn’t come up at work very often. No, I don’t know why. I know I can’t fathom.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Right? Right. We should start trying to use it in our daily language. Yeah. I’m a mermaid. Do like what?

Deanna Piña: Like, do like a bet? Like if you can work in as many like ocean related words in a day you get like five

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Dollars or something into like regular legal communication, like

Deanna Piña: In the transcript on the record.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Oh, in court. So judge our divorce clients own a turtle.

Deanna Piña: Five points, five points. She really hooked him in, she was like a siren calling to him, you know?

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Oh yeah, OK, so I’m going to totally admit that I realize the Starbucks mermaid is not a mermaid. She has a siren, weird

Deanna Piña: Feet or the fins are weird. Yeah. Yes. Is that because they want us to spend all our money and

Tracy Hightower-Henne: They’re tricking us? I don’t know. I haven’t done the total Google research on why, but I am a Starbucks goer. Yes, a lot, right? You see the cops on my desk. And one day I said, Why does she have two fins? And they looked at me like, seriously, and they were like, She’s a siren. And I said

Deanna Piña: I wasn’t aware that they had two fins,

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Mind blowing. And then they’re like controlling women of the sea. And I was like, Oh, this is cool.

Deanna Piña: So this is really lame that I know this, but a lot of siren like law, actually. People think that what they were seeing in real life was a walrus. So, oh, those sexy, sexy walrus walruses? Yeah.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: And sea walruses are the ones with the huge tongues hanging down right there.

Deanna Piña: Super just like lumps of squishy cuteness.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: But is that how you do a walrus? You put the two like the chopsticks. Oh, the jaw or the straws? That is the walrus.

Deanna Piña: We’re doing this with our hands and our faces, but no one can see because it’s a podcast, right?

Tracy Hightower-Henne: This one is not going to be a video podcast.

Deanna Piña: So anyway, so

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Ocean and Spanish ocean

Deanna Piña: In Spanish,

Tracy Hightower-Henne: The rest. I don’t. Yeah, the rest. I don’t think I have in common with you.

Deanna Piña: So yes, unfortunately, we are two different people, but we managed to unfortunately

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Norway

Deanna Piña: To each other. Yeah. So I’m from Texas. My mom, like I said, it’s from Puerto Rico. My dad is Mexican. We’ve always lived in Texas and I came here for college to do opera performance and I ended up becoming a lawyer instead.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So yeah, how did that happen?

Deanna Piña: So I was, you know, my intention was I’m from a town called Fort Hood or near Fort Hood, which is one of the bands from the hood.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: I’m from Fort Hood. I just heard the song the other day in the hood, and that’s not how it’s said in the song, but I was like, Oh, she’s saying in the hood, so I’m going to think of you.

Deanna Piña: That’s me. That’s people very commonly associate me with the hood. Yes. Only it’s a fort,

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Which is very different from the hood.

Deanna Piña: It’s a super it’s one of the largest army bases in the country, if not the largest. So. And my dad’s a veteran, so my intention with going to school to do music was to do music therapy. And then so I had to start taking a lot of psychology classes, and I took one called Psychology of Immigration because the process is very traumatic in certain ways. And I learned, you know, it’s I was going to swear,

Tracy Hightower-Henne: You can swear we cuss all the time, OK, we’ll fuck shit all that. Yeah.

Deanna Piña: Now I’m shy. No, but I learned the system is all kinds of, you know, screwed up in a lot of password. I can’t do it now that I have permission. The system is bullshit. Yeah, there it is. All you know, most are especially many federal ones. They could all use some improvement. So. So I learned about how, you know, terrible the system is like. For example, the government decided that children as young as two years old are competent to represent themselves in immigration court.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah, right after they started walking.

Deanna Piña: So, you know, I was like this, it really pissed me off, honestly. And then I decided, how do I fix this? So I kind of started looking into what you can do on the back end, like as a therapist. And then the more I looked into that, the more I was like, Why don’t I just prevent it from happening in the first place? And so I applied to law school after some time off in between, I applied to law school and then I got in.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So you just said in your mind, I’m going to fix this bullshit myself.

Deanna Piña: I literally became an attorney out of spite. Like, yeah,

Tracy Hightower-Henne: I think all of us kind of do right. Like unless except for if you’re doing like tax law or something dumb, you know, like, there’s no spite in that. No, I

Deanna Piña: Mean, maybe against the ordinary consumer.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah, that’s. Anyways, we’re not going there. Ok, so that’s why you went to law school.

Deanna Piña: Yeah. And then, you know, it just so happened that my first year of law school, there was a certain election that was highly contested in twenty sixteen. And though I had at the time, you know, I was like, my dad’s a dentist. Like, maybe I’ll do like medical malpractice. I like medical records, I like doctors offices. And then the election happened,

Tracy Hightower-Henne: And I’ll change the immigration system while I’m being a

Deanna Piña: Dentist on the side where looking at teeth, I don’t know. I have no idea, but I was like, you know, playing with both ideas and then the election happened. And then it was it became a lot more urgent that there were more immigration attorneys. So I picked that lane. And here I am.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Wow. So how did you get to Omaha?

Deanna Piña: So I went to Lincoln for undergrad and for law school, and then most of you know, so the immigration court is in Omaha, so a lot of immigration attorneys practice here. It just makes more sense because there’s only one court that Omaha or that Nebraska and Iowa both share, and that’s the one that’s here in Omaha. So, yes, and then also my husband lives here.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Oh, well, there’s that, too. That’s nice.

Deanna Piña: Ok, so

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Back to when you were growing up. What did you want to be when you grew up, like before you did the immigration helpful class?

Deanna Piña: All that business? Yeah. Yeah. I have always just my dad is one of the coolest people that’s ever lived. He’s still alive. That came out weird, but so I just wanted to do. True, but true. So I wanted to just do whatever he was doing. So he was in the military. I’ve always kind of thought about the Air Force. He was a doctor. I was like, Maybe I should do science. And then I learned very rapidly that I’m not good at math.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: No lawyers are

Deanna Piña: That and that, you know, I started kind of we talked about a little bit earlier that I grew up very religiously because my dad is a Catholic deacon, so I was going to church probably four times a week. And when you’re a kid, that’s not super fun. So the way that I kind of made it interesting to me was to do the music part of it. So that’s what got me into, like doing music. And that’s kind of then I had the dream of being, you know, like an opera singer, but

Tracy Hightower-Henne: With good teeth, with good teeth. I hear because you were going to be a dentist.

Deanna Piña: I I’ve had braces three times.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Oh my God, why? Because my dad

Deanna Piña: Knows all the orthodontists and he’s like, Oh, you’re you know, incisor moved a quarter of an inch here. Go get some

Tracy Hightower-Henne: More Braithwaite in your mouth. A quarter of an inch is kind of a lot. Well, I

Deanna Piña: Don’t know if that’s math is not my strong suit. It could have been an eight.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: It was one thirty second of an inch.

Deanna Piña: But yeah, I got braces three times.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Wow. Yeah. With the rubber bands and everything.

Deanna Piña: Yeah, but I got to pick my own colors, which

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Was, oh, like on Halloween, you have orange and black in your mouth, right?

Deanna Piña: They let me do like every color I wanted since my dad. Wow.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Did you do have nice teeth, though? So that’s good. Yeah, you are the daughter of a dentist.

Deanna Piña: Once again, no one can see, so you don’t know if it’s true or not. We’re just going to assume it’s true.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Well, they can go to our website and look at your picture. I think you’re showing your teeth in that picture. There are ways to see. Yeah, yes. Yeah, OK. So I always think it’s really interesting to know like what was your first job?

Deanna Piña: Yeah. So I am extremely lucky in that the way that I grew up, my parents kind of thought, your job is to go to school. So I didn’t work until I was in college and my first job I was a bartender. Yes, which I loved. So, so, so much.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So you can mix all the drinks.

Deanna Piña: I would love to mix all the drinks.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Did you ever come up with the Deanna’s special?

Deanna Piña: No, but what I did do so my last name is Piña, which means pineapple and Spanish and has

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Nothing to do with being a swinger, by the way.

Deanna Piña: Yeah, that freaks me out.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah, no upside-down ones, though, right? I have no

Deanna Piña: Idea. Someone told me that the other day how like pineapples in your house mean you’re a swinger and my entire house is covered in pineapples.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: And if they’re like painted white and then they’re upside down, though. So as long as none of them are painted white and upside-down, I think you’re OK. I think where you see them a lot is at mobile parks where the cameras are parked. They’ll, like, set up a picnic table and then there’ll be a pineapple on it. And you’re like, I

Deanna Piña: Became very afraid because my parents are highly non swingers. So I was like, Are people looking at them thinking that they’re this way? They are like, Oh, you have

Tracy Hightower-Henne: A pineapple on your doorbell?

Deanna Piña: We have a pineapple door knocker. We have pineapple scones. Oh God. Pineapple doormats with pineapple.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Like, oh, people think if you

Deanna Piña: Can conceive of it being pineapple, we

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Have it. Yeah. So I did get you a pineapple bracelet to one time, which I love, and I didn’t even think about how that would say your swinger. But people think you’re swingers, by the way.

Deanna Piña: Well, let the record show that I’m not,

Tracy Hightower-Henne: And that’s OK. They can think what they want.

Deanna Piña: Oh, but yeah. So like, my name is pineapple. And so when I was bartending, I made it a point to that. All the pineapple related drinks were going to be my specialty. So like, I was kind of known for like tropical. And I also like I was like the ethnic one, you know? So all the tropical drinks were my specialty. So like, you knew that you could come to me for like a good mai tai or like a mojito or like whatever?

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Oh yeah, is there a pineapple liquor?

Deanna Piña: There is a lot of pineapple juice that’s used. Oh, sure. In conjunction with a lot of other out of the

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Ghanaian how you have to like open it and then get the other side going. Things like that. Yeah. Ok, so what’s your favorite drink?

Deanna Piña: Oh, vodka in all forms with all with all friends usually is my go to. I don’t know. I don’t generally in life, I do not discriminate. And that translates to alcohol as well. Oh, perfect. I’m fine with all of them.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Perfect. Ok, so your bartender as your first job? Did you become a bartender?

Deanna Piña: Other places. So I worked at a really like it was a college. Are in in Lincoln. That was like you went there to like, get long islands do shots like at one point and I had learned how to make like a way that you can set up a bunch of shots in a row and it’s like you clink one down and they all clink into each other. And it’s really cool like dominoes. I’m like doing things at my hands. But yeah, it was super, super neat. So yeah, that was my first job. And then after that, I worked at a bunch of different legal nonprofits because I was in law school and then I got really lucky and had the opportunity to work for the immigration court as a clerk for the immigration judges and other jobs. And then magically, I came here here.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah. Yes, it was magic. It was like the mermaid. It was fate. Yeah. Ok, so what do you love about being a lawyer now?

Deanna Piña: Um, this is so pathetic. But the first thing I thought of was the clothes. But it’s really superficial.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: But you are always well dressed.

Deanna Piña: I love skirts and dresses.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: You know, I think lawyers wear skirts, do they? Yes. It’s the thing.

Deanna Piña: The jury’s out on that one. But yeah, so I like that. You know, you can actually make change. Like even if it’s on a one person to one person basis, you’re able to actually affect the trajectory of somebody’s life. So I like that. I like how it’s different every day. I like that there’s no two days that you walk in and you do the same thing. That was something that, you know, once you learn like, psychology is really interesting, too. But I don’t know. The stakes aren’t as high. It’s like it’s fun to be in. The adrenaline court is really cool. I love the law. I’m a really big law nerd. Yes.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So yeah, so like the variety of the days, because one day you’re like, Oh shit, I have nothing to do. And then you’re like, Ten minutes later, you’re like flooded. Yes. Yeah, yes.

Deanna Piña: And yeah, it’s fun. And I like that. You know, there’s not a lot of people who practice law the same way that this office does in such a, you know, collaborative and open way. And I like that it’s not super like we’re not competitive within ourselves and we’re able to just focus on we’re here for the clients. We’re here to make the lives better for other people like, let’s just do that or you can.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So, so what areas of the law do you practice here at Hightower Law?

Deanna Piña: So at Hightower Ref Law, I do immigration law and I do family law. So that includes divorce custody. I’ve helped with adoption cases before, especially regarding spanish-speaking clients. I kind of get looped in on anytime. There’s someone who speaks Spanish just because I speak Spanish.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: That seems to make sense.

Deanna Piña: The dots connect, you know, so I’ve gotten the chance to do a lot of things that I maybe normally wouldn’t have been involved in, which is really neat.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: And you’re involved in a lot of things to like on a volunteer basis, too. So tell us about that.

Deanna Piña: Yes. So you and I both we we help out at a clinic in South Omaha. It’s run primarily by law office on twenty third and oh at the Ascension Guadalupe Church every single Monday from seven to nine. Most times, most parts of the week of the month, we’re able to go and provide free legal help to people who speak Spanish. So we do that every month, every week sometimes. Let’s see what else do. I’m also a I don’t know if this is legal related, but I’m a mentor through partnership for kids. So I’m going to be doing mentorship for 10th graders at South High starting this year. 10th Grade I picked high school. I’m not. I’m not great with kids. I don’t understand them. They speak strangely. They move their bodies in a way that I don’t understand. So I pick high school.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: I don’t understand a lot of 10th graders either.

Deanna Piña: I like the drama and the angst and the the emotions. It’s just like, it’s very opera. It’s very opera. Yeah, to be like over the top.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yes. Wow. I feel like tenth, well, tenth grade felt better than ninth grade I feel and like sixth and seventh and eighth grade were like, super weird.

Deanna Piña: I didn’t like any of it.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah.

Deanna Piña: Oh, to be honest, all of high school. Well, so for a long time I was in Catholic school,

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Which I can see

Deanna Piña: Sometimes can be terrible for many, many reasons. Yeah. And then, you know, you have all the hormones and you’re all weird inside. Yeah, so that happened a lot.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Well, good. So you can help the weirdness of the 10th. That’s what I hope for. Good. Yes. And all that bullshit.

Deanna Piña: Yeah, especially like the artsy ones who like, you know, the only kids I understand are ones who play video games. So luckily, that’s a lot. Yeah, because you like to play video games. I’m not good at them, but I love them.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: What’s your favorite one right now?

Deanna Piña: So my favorite game ever is The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker, because it’s very cute and it’s very sweet and you’re at sea like. The whole time, can

Tracy Hightower-Henne: You pick the princess as the character?

Deanna Piña: Can you play the No? She is not playable in many of the Zelda

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Games, but like a Mario car, you can pick her to drive the car.

Deanna Piña: Yeah, but that’s a game of like skill, and that’s not for me. Oh, I need like a storyline, but I can go to a dungeon and smack something around. In fact,

Tracy Hightower-Henne: You told me about the Nintendo Switch and then you said, you really should get this. And then so I researched it. You should be. Well, then they’re coming out with some new version in October, so I think I’m going to wait for that. I got that one. Yeah, I’m excited. You should. But here’s the games I like to play. I like to play like the puzzle games that are like, Yeah, figure out these 10 things to open this part of the box. And then now you got that box open and like escape room

Deanna Piña: And you feel so this is so lame, but you feel so smart. You’re like, Oh my God, I

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Figured it out. I open that I opened a pop and then there’s like eighteen hundred more boxes open. You’re like, Oh, great,

Deanna Piña: There’s a game that’s about being an attorney. I think it’s called Phoenix, right? Or something, but it’s like, it’s kind of your life. Oh, and it’s so funny. You have to, like, provide the right evidence. And every time I get it right, I’m like, I’m so smart. Oh my God, completely ignoring the fact that it’s literally my job.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Wow. It’s it’s a video game. Yeah, on Nintendo Switch,

Deanna Piña: They made it for

Tracy Hightower-Henne: The Switch. Oh, I’m buying it. You should all over it. Awesome. Well, this was super great because I learned a lot even more about you. So this was really fun. So thank you for coming on the podcast today and telling us about Deanna. Yes, Deanna Piña. Not swinger Piña. That’s just my last name. Yes. Lover of the ocean and all the good things.

Deanna Piña: Yeah, that sounds great to me.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: I’ll take it. Ok, awesome. Thank.

Announcer: Thank you for listening to the lady lawyer league Podcast. Be sure to like and subscribe anywhere you get your podcasts, if you would like to learn more about our firm, Hightower-Reff Law, please visit our website at HR Law We’ll see you next week.

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