Law in Contemporary Society
I hope your moment of realization comes earlier in your life than did mine. Perhaps you too will learn of Emma Lazarus’ words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty early on in your education, as I did, and conclude that that was that – as I did. If so, you too will be deceiving yourself, as a man named King once wrote that we are wont to do.

Perhaps you will pay attention as I recite the story time and time again. You know the story. It is not just Grandpa’s story, as you know, but the story of so many just like him. You will surely roll your eyes as I get started again: three-hundred dollars in his pocket, could not speak a word of English, one-bedroom apartment in Connecticut for a family of six, working at a Foster Farms on the factory line by day, waiting tables by night. You will zone out as I describe, for the umpteenth time, how he just kept sitting in on engineering classes at the University of Bridgeport until they agreed to, as he calls it, “let him in for free.” You see, he was not familiar with the phrase, “merit scholarship.”

You will be reminded of the ways in which Grandpa’s career success in the heart of the growth of the Silicon Valley demonstrates “what happens” when you work hard, persevere, and follow your dreams. Only that right there is the problem, is it not? Usually, that is precisely not what happens. The problem is, one day you will wake up and unceremoniously realize that while such hard work and determination are necessary conditions of success, they are far from sufficient ones.

I went to law school in Trump’s America. In fact, I took Constitutional Law during the first and only semester in which I was not a law student in Trump’s America. I remember we all nervously glanced around the classroom as November came and went, and everyone slowly realized that the Constitution is not some document etched in stone. The Constitution, we realized, is whatever nine people in robes decide that it is. And pretty soon, we would be told there was a new person given the robe-yielding power. I remember the panic with which I went to my Constitutional Law professor’s office – “he can’t do that, can he?” I hardly remember her response. Something about Korematsu, and something about equal protection, and something about when constitutional rights apply to non-citizens, and something about something else… it hardly mattered.

For one of the first times in my life, I saw with clarity that I was living in a country in which a large contingent of people would rather refugees like my father not have ever been welcomed to the United States simply because they were born in a majority Muslim country. For one of the first times in my life I had realized that many people would prefer people like my father to be forced to “register” as individuals currently living in the United States and once born in a majority Muslim country. For the first time in my life, I learned what it might mean to wear a yellow star. A few months later, the first executive order came down. I remember thinking to myself, this is it, the damage has been done. Somewhere, some hard-working man, is just trying to get to America, yearning for freedom from religious persecution as a Christian minority in Iran, for example, and being told that he cannot. I grew dizzy as I walked past the Barney the Dinosaur-colored chairs of Jerome Greene Hall’s lobby, knowing that there might be someone just like myself who could never sit on them now.

“We just need more rigorous vetting,” I read, as I recalled the stories my father told me about what it takes to get to America as a refugee. “It is only temporary,” I heard, as I thought of the Special Immigrant Visa recipient I met earlier in the school year through the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), whose brother was gunned down when it became known that he was translating for the United States Military. I thought of the braveness with which he described the death threats he, his wife, and his small children received during the three years it took them to finally be granted refugee status.

A wise man once said that, “primates believe what they see and imagine what they hear if they even bother listening.” The thing about that is that it is fairly easy to believe the image of two buildings in Lower Manhattan crumbling to a pile of dust and debris. It is much harder to visualize the fact that not one of the terrorists involved in that or any other attack on United States soil was even a refugee, let alone one from the blacklisted countries. It is difficult to fully convince people of the absence of a thing.

There was a positive outcome derived from leaving the comfort zone I had deceived myself into believing: in realizing that many people, including some lawmakers, Congress, and the President of the United States cared not for the safety of people in my father’s previous disposition, let alone for their advancement, I was able to get to work on combatting this phenomenon. I begged IRAP for a new case assignment. I sent Lee Gelernt, lead attorney for the ACLU on the case of Darweesh v. Trump, four separate emails before he agreed to allow me to work with him. I began educating those around me to the extent that I could without sounding like a patronizing prick, and sometimes even while sounding like one. In ceasing to live in the comfort of my own self-deception with respect to the ways that many people perceived my father and me, I was able to do some things about it. I hope you will never have to, but if you do, I hope you are ready.


Webs Webs

r3 - 19 May 2017 - 23:08:20 - BeneelBabaei
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