What it’s like to be an immigration lawyer & guardian of the airport in the Trump era (originally published 2/1/17 on LinkedIn)

The past few days have been a whirlwind. I never thought of lawyer as a profession that would be “on call” like surgeons, but the last few days, we have become guardians of the galaxy, the Trump Galaxy, that is. I have been practicing immigration law for 14 years. It’s my job, it’s who I am. We stand up for the underdog. We explain very complicated things to people even when there are language barriers. Sometimes we and our clients get abused in court. Sometimes we and our clients get roughhoused to the extreme. Sometimes it tears my heart apart. The wins and the kindness have always had to carry my soul through the rough patches, as well as the unwavering help and support from my colleagues. Immigration lawyers are all warriors. They are the best people I know. Very few of them do it for the money. We fly under the radar. We help the forgotten souls, the strangers in our land. We do it because it’s the right thing to do, because we were once strangers too, because we have struggled for better lives too, and because we love these clients of ours, and they love us too.

I knew about the executive order since Tuesday afternoon when my email box exploded. I did not really understand the magnitude of what would happen once it was signed. Saturday afternoon when I dropped my 4 year old off with her dad and drove down the Atlanta airport with tears in my eyes after hearing that legal permanent residents were being detained, I thought I would be doing what I always did, lawyering. I planned to represent these people. I planned to ask for asylum. I planned to stand between them and deportation. What actually happened was far different. I saw the best women I know waving at me as I came down the escalator. Each one a warrior, but each one with a larger heart than the next. Most with small children at home giving up their entire Saturday to stand with immigrants, because like me, it’s not just their job, it’s who they are.

I was not at the center of what went on, I would not have even known what to do. I did not plan to talk to reporters that day, I even had no idea what to say to them until I realized the reporters were just people too, and they cared about what was happening like we did. I did not plan to be on the telephone with a US Congressman convincing him to come help us and explaining that legal permanent residents can never be deported without a hearing, and I did not imagine he would ever say, “yes, this is a humanitarian issue. I’m on my way.” I did not expect to have a lively discussion about democracy with a US citizen from Iran waiting for his family to be released for six hours who has been in this country since I was 2 years old, who would later contact me and become my friend. I did not expect to speak one on one with Congressmen John Lewis and Hank Johnson like they were kindred souls, their regal presence and loving and articulate words filling every crack and crevice of the sad waiting room of Customs and Border Protection. I was not prepared for the outpouring of love and appreciation from this wonderful group of people that sat together in that room or from my friends and family, just for doing my job and what I have always done, defending immigrants.

Friends’ attention and pride is actually a strange and yet intoxicating feeling because I’ve always been here. It is you, society, who has opened your hearts up to immigrants. It took extreme hatred to make you see how wonderful they are, and I am so grateful that we are now united. And I do understand and want all of you to understand, it’s not about me. I am not the hero, they are. Love your brothers and sisters from everywhere, especially Muslims and especially from the 7 banned countries, for they are the ones who are oppressed and suffering and afraid. Hug them, do random acts of kindness for them, donate money to their causes, volunteer for the organizations. Fill the world with so much love that bigotry will be completely squeezed out of it and will have no place left to exist. I’ll be here doing what I have always done. This is my calling, and I will do it until the end of time, whether anyone notices or not. I think with the horror of what’s going on, it’s human nature to want to find love. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for loving my clients. Thank you for loving each other. Keep marching, keep loving, keep your hearts open.

To my clients, I wish I could tell you not to be afraid. I wish I could tell you it will be ok, but that would be disingenuous. What I can promise you is that I will fight for you to the end of the earth and back, I will be your emergency on call lawyer, your surgeon, and I will file lawsuits. We all will. We will build and army. But you need to know that it’s not just me and you anymore, we have an entire society mobilized and ready to help. The American people will speak up for you. They get it. Their love for you is growing and growing every day. This trial that we must go through for some reason unknown to me, it will make our country (which is your country too) better, stronger, more expansive and tolerant in the end. Keep your head down, the mother of all storms is coming down on us and it will get worse before it gets better, but we will face it together, not just me and you, but our country which is your country. #resist #orangemenace