Belief is a powerful, motivating force. A force that can literally compel action, both for good or evil. For me, knowledge of and belief in a power greater than myself motivates virtually all that I do. I believe that we have a responsibility as human beings to be kind to others, to assist when able, to lift when necessary, and to reach out when required. As lawyers, and particularly as immigration lawyers, I believe that the need for the actions of assisting, lifting and reaching out are even more acute.
We live in a time of great political turmoil. Regardless of which of the major political parties with which you affiliate, we can all acknowledge that not enough is being done, not only by the government, but by society in general, to lift the lives of our fellow citizens. Part of the reason we see this failing by government and by ourselves is that many people demonize “the others,” seeking to blame “the others” for the problems with which they themselves have to deal. As a result, the topic of “Immigration” has become a great political lightning rod, a catalyst for debate on the evil versus the good of “the others.” The debate on immigration reform has sharpened the line between those who are distrustful, and perhaps even afraid of new immigrants, and those who believe that immigration is good for our society and our country.
What I have observed over that last several years is that most of us love the individual immigrant; the one who has benefited us with scientific discoveries, or has helped in our yards, or with our children. Concerns seem to come when more than one of these favored immigrants congregates with others and creates an impact on the local community. Is this not the very definition of fear? Being afraid of what is new, being concerned with change to who we are as a country?
Fortunately, we are a country that always seems to overcome these bouts of xenophobia, with an increased tolerance of, and perhaps even a greater affection for immigrants. We honor and revere those immigrants who came before during those times of great waves of immigration, but as a society we typically fail to recognize at the time it happens, the net benefits that come to America with those who seek to share with us in this great American Experiment.
I believe, and so remain optimistic that soon, as a country, we will come to the realization that immigration is not the cause of our myriad problems, but rather, one of the important solutions. I believe we will soon come to our senses as a country and understand that by fixing our immigration system, both by adjusting the legal aspects that merit reform, and by forgiving those who have forged a future in this country through their hard labor, we will resume our path forward. More importantly, we will do so without demonizing millions of people for choosing to improve their lives. These same people who entered into and lived in the United States with the tacit approval of the government, should, in fact, pay a price for disobeying the law, but with the understanding that they have and will contribute to this country.
I believe that we as immigration lawyers have a very specific obligation to help shape the public debate, clear up misunderstandings, and clarify for the American people the realities of our immigration system. This must be done not only through the media, but through reaching out to our neighbors, and our friends. The voices of the anti-immigration movement, like all other negative cries, are easily heard and believed. Compare it to negative political advertising—scare tactics. These are used because they work. It is much harder to get a positive message across. Yet, I believe that such a positive message is one most Americans yearn to hear and understand. We have the obligation to spread that positive message.
I also believe we have an affirmative and very substantial obligation to assist the immigrant. We have to reach out; we have to assist, we have to lift up our clients. How we act on behalf of a client, how hard we try, how bold we are in their defense is the lesson that our client will pay forward as she becomes part of the great American Experiment.
Ultimately, I believe that being an Immigration Lawyer is more than a career choice, or an area of law to practice. I believe it is a calling, one that each of us has chosen. One which actually changes lives and affects the courses of life of millions of Americans for generations to come. I believe that service to our fellow man, as immigration lawyers, is simply service to our own belief in the greater powers to which we each individually answer.
Written by Charles H. Kuck, AILA Past President