He never went home.
He left his native county at the age of 20 to find work. Born in an impoverished area of a poor country, he left home to earn money which he could send back to his mother and eight siblings.
He ventured through, and stayed briefly at, a few countries, eventually reaching the United States.
For the next 25 years, he crisscrossed California, Arizona, and Utah, moving from crop to crop before settling in San Diego where he worked as a dishwasher at one of the city’s most prestigious restaurants.
Major political changes do not happen overnight.
For many immigrants, this reality is not acceptable. They want change now – if not yesterday – and absent such an outcome, they lose heart.
Instead of continuing to fight for change, some retreat to the confines of living in the shadows.
Others seek short term benefits, risking the potential for deportation in the future.
They are willing to take poorly-calculated risks and seek short term benefits . . . benefits which carry the potential for possible deportation measures in the future.
Both subsets of immigrants – the drifters and the driven – would do well to step back and learn from the June 26, 2015 Supreme Court same-sex marriage victory.
By now, every immigrant reform advocate in the U.S. has heard about the murder on a San Francisco pier allegedly committed by an undocumented immigrant.
Questioned a few days ago, the parents of the young woman who was killed were asked if they supported stricter punishment for immigrants who break our laws.
They responded affirmatively.
I would not expect them to answer otherwise.
I understand and respect their sentiments – though I disagree with some of the rationale underlying the options presented to them.
Unfortunately, the public discussion on this emotionally excruciating issue has not attempted to reconcile differences of opinion, or tried to outline a balanced and enlightened solution. Instead, much of it has been rude not reasoned, inflammatory not insightful.
As often happens on immigration issues, the social discourse is being swayed by political demagoguery. Those who want to be our leaders fail to exhibit the maturity, much less the aptitude or desire, to forge a consensus.
And not solely from one side of the political spectrum.
She must have woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
Immigration judges often do.
Or so it seems.
What else can explain such contentious and rude attitudes at 8:00 a.m. in the morning?
After all, tempers should be held in check until a lawyer or an immigrant gives the judge a reason to come unglued.
Propaganda is to democracy, Noam Chomsky once noted, what violence is to totalitarianism.
Repeated often enough, manipulative messages dissolve critical analysis.
Orwell knew this. Huxley knew this. Hitler knew this.
Yet, for all of their good intentions, immigrant advocates have not sufficiently engaged in this battle.
Many of my immigration reform colleagues scoff at their opponents’ repulsive messages, such as the one above, as being simplistic and ridiculous.
However, they underestimate the force of these messages.
That’s a grave error.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. At least in the world of immigration reform politics.
I’ve been involved in political affairs since I was a teenager. I was driven by a desire to help people victimized by a government controlled by a limited set of social and economic interests.
I was an activist in my pre-lawyer days and grew into political campaign leadership roles.
I won some battles. I lost some battles.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
Boehner: Speaker Boehner. How may I help you?
Schumer: John, this is Chuck, Chuck Shumer.
Boehner: Hi Chuck. What can I do for you in the wee hours of the morning?
Schumer: I have an idea for immigration reform.
Boehner: An idea? Chuck, we’ve been down this road more than a few times.
Schumer: Really, John, this one is a winner.
“Life is a journey,” noted Ralph Waldo Emerson, “not a destination.”
Even for lawyers.
We never reach a point of absolute knowledge or complete victory.
Despite attorneys who pretend otherwise and treat clients as second class human beings, the quest for legal certainty never ends.
It all began when I was a teenager.
I began organizing student rallies calling for the adoption of multi-cultural textbooks and against the purchase on non-union grapes and lettuce.
The message was simple. Fight for what you believe is right.
I wanted to retire.
I felt unmotivated to fight.
I knew my clients deserved better. They were facing deportation, a near life-or-death situation, and they needed a warrior.
My passion for law had disappeared.
My mother had passed away.
Fighting my own mental and emotional wounds, I had nothing left over to give to others.