“You are educated. Your certification is in your degree. You may think of it as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you to think of an alternative. Think of it as your ticket to change the world.” – Tom Brokaw
So far this year, I’ve experienced dark moments where my calling in immigration law has felt like a burden. I’ve envied acquaintances in professions that permitted them to close their eyes to the news and focus inward on their families and community. As an immigration attorney, I don’t have that luxury these days, and it has taken time to find a productive, proactive way to regain my equilibrium and sense of control over my career, and my clients’ fates. My methods are diverse: I write romance novels in my spare time, I listen to the Glenn Miller Band or Nick Drake during the workday instead of the news, and I cherish the innocence of my children more consciously.
I’ve also found that my training and license as a legal expert and effective communicator has given me another tool for coping – taking action at the local level to impact the lives of the community of immigrants who are my friends, neighbors, and my children’s classmates. Frustrated by the immigration policies of the police department in a neighboring city, I recently called my own city’s police department and left a brief message, requesting a copy of the department’s policy. In response, the chief of police sent me an email – apparently he googled my name and located my email address – that very day, with a copy of the full policy and an invitation to share my thoughts. I accepted the invitation and reached out to my local ACLU for input, drafting a quick-and-dirty analysis and set of suggestions.
So in the middle of hectic “H-1B season” (when business immigration attorneys are at our busiest), I found myself scheduling a meeting with the chief of police to discuss our local immigration policies. We opened the conversation by chatting about our small suburb and bonded over the fact that our children are classmates in elementary school. We then went through my outline of suggestions, most of them directly from the ACLU National’s website. We discussed the local efforts to reach out to immigrant communities, and the absolute absence of a link between criminal propensity and undocumented population. We discussed the importance of a strong connection between the police and all residents for everyone’s safety. It was an affirming, productive conversation on both ends and we have continued our correspondence.
As a direct result of our conversation, my local police department has initiated additional training on immigration policies and is exploring edits to its policy. I’ve come away from this experience feeling empowered about my ability to make a difference, in spite of the unhappy saga playing out on the national stage. This sense of empowerment has not only begun a process that will help others, but helped MY ability to remain positive in the face of the disheartening news we continue to receive as immigration lawyers. Was this effort entirely within my ‘comfort zone’? No. But conducting this analysis and making these connections has given me skills I think will actually make me a better lawyer for my clients. I urge all of you to take similar action, to the benefit of your career, mental wellbeing, and your community’s immigrants!