In recognition of Father’s Day, we asked AILA members to share how something their dad did or said helped them choose immigration law as a profession.
“My Dad spent time in India and China during the war and always had a huge interest in different cultures which he instilled in me. He would play Ravi Shankar in the house when I was a kid and I think his love of other cultures is in me and is one of the reasons I love immigration law!” ~ Steven Ladik, Dallas, TX
“My dad is a retired Air Force Lt. Col, and when I was 11 years old we moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My international school hosted an exchange with Girl Scouts from the nearby Vietnamese refugee camp, and my mom worked with the refugee screening process when she was there as a military spouse. If my dad had not taken us overseas and shown me the universality of the human experience, I am not sure I would have had the interest or passion to pursue the path I am on now.” ~ Emily Haverkamp, Wichita, KS
“My father was an entrepreneur through and through and loved it when I told him I was leaving the large corporate law firm where I was practicing to start my own immigration firm. Having his advice and support, especially in the early years after my firm was founded, made a big difference and I will always be grateful to him. He passed away 11 years ago, but I’ve honored his role in helping me by naming our book publishing operation after him. The three titles we’ve published so far are under the name Alan House.” ~ Greg Siskind, Memphis, TN
“As a young entrepreneur, my dad traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and Europe searching for products and ideas that he could bring back and market in Iran. After his travels, he would always tell us about his encounters with other cultures, customs, and in particular the different cuisines. As a boy, I wanted to travel that path and meet everyone in the world! Being an immigration attorney comes as close as I can get to reaching that goal.” ~ Ally Bolour, Los Angeles, CA
“My father, Sam Pelta, was a survivor of the ghetto in Lodz, Poland, and a satellite labor camp associated with the Buchenwald concentration camp. He was liberated, at 20 years of age, on a “death march,” a forced evacuation of the concentration camps organized by Nazis when they were on the cusp of defeat by the Allied forces. My father and mother met shortly after the war, and for several years, they and my sister, then a toddler, lived in the Displaced Persons camp organized by the Allied Forces in the former officer’s quarters at Bergen Belsen. They emigrated to the United States in 1952 under the Displaced Persons Act.
Despite the struggles that my parents had as a young immigrant family in the 1950’s, my father thought that the United States was the best country in the world. He was incredibly proud when he became a citizen. He was also what I lovingly call a “Philadelphia patriot” – he thought his adopted hometown of Philadelphia was the most beautiful city in the U.S., and I have warm memories of Sunday family strolls along the East River Drive where my father would admire the Art Museum, the boathouses and the rowers on the Schuylkill River.
My father’s resilience and positivity, and that of others in the Holocaust survivor community in Philadelphia that surrounded me as I grew up, were formative for me in terms of my decision to become an immigration lawyer. But two books have had an incredible influence on me this year, and they caused me to reassess my father’s immigrant admiration for his adopted homeland: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and The Last Million by David Nasaw. Together, these books helped me understand that the country to which my father thought he immigrated was not exactly that shining ideal for everyone. Isabel Wilkerson’s book shows that it was certainly not that beacon of acceptance for its African American citizens who, at the same time of my parents’ immigration to the US in the 1950’s, continued to suffer disastrously from widespread discrimination and racial violence in both the South and the North, to which many fled. The Last Million makes clear that the concept of an America with open arms for refugees was a fallacy, even for the Jewish displaced persons the U.S. ultimately took in, to whom these visas were actually only grudgingly given (my parents were among the fortunate ones.)
But my father’s belief in the American ideal is still a tremendous legacy for me, because it was, for him, and is, for me, a passionate hope for what this country can be. I am an attorney who has been devoted to the fair administration of our immigration laws for over thirty years, and my choice of career has been driven by the firm conviction that American’s strength, both culturally and economically, is its diversity. As I remember my father and his journey from immigrant to American this Father’s Day, I am ever grateful to him for instilling in me his hope that our country continues to evolve toward the ideal that he believed in.” ~ Eleanor Pelta, Washington, DC