Authorities have estimated the number of demonstrators protesting the current immigration policies in the streets of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and other cities across the U.S. in the Millions. With these vast numbers the U.S seems to have a renewed since of urgency to do something about our broken system and to help facilitate the transition for our people from a life lived in the shadows into the mainstream.
A life lived in the shadows is disheartening and robs the soul of it's worth. A life in the shadows is a life hoping for basic necessities like work, food and housing. It is a life yearning for recognition, asking for common rights, to no longer be considered a number or an estimate. Life in the shadows is not fun, life as an estimated number is demeaning, assimilation and recognition is what all people want. Not a hand out, not a favor, but the chance to achieve on equal ground.
I am reminded of this quest to be more than a number on a daily basis as I try to help the array of people who come to me for help. I understand their pain as they sit in front of me explaining that they cannot obtain a drivers license or social security card, that a family member is ill or even dying and they cannot return to see them. I understand the feeling of being nothing more than a number as my clients speak of immigration delays and unfair denials. I understand the need, the desire for more.
I recently had a client come to me and ask that I do something, anything for him, even if it meant deportation proceeding. The reason he gave was that he was tired of living his life unrecognized. He wanted me to put him in the system because, " I want the government to know I am here, to know that I contribute and that I am a part of this country." Fortunately, we were able to examine his background and find a solution to his immigration problem and we are now pursuing a course that will result in the acquisition of a work permit, his social security and his driver's license. He will be recognized.
After I met with this gentlemen I had the opportunity to meet for dinner some close friends, friends I met some ten years ago when they came to see me for immigration help. At the time Maria and Gerry came to me they were despondent. They came to the U.S. as children; they had no say in the choice to come they were just being obedient children.
Maria and Gerry grew up in the U.S. went to High School and found each other. They married, had children, worked and paid taxes. By all accounts they were great neighbors and good citizens of this country. The problem was that after they arrived with their parents they overstayed their visa and were now unlawful. What could they do? What if anything was available for them? They too felt the sting of being out of status and the scramble for basic necessities.
Fortunately, I was able represent them before the Immigration Service and obtain what is called cancellation of removal. By winning their trial Maria and Gerry were able obtain their lawful permanent residency, travel back to the Philippines to see family long since remembered and to get those basics so that life is a little bit easier.
More than five years have past since we won that trial and their life here in the U.S. continued for the better as I helped them apply for U.S. citizenship. After a fairly routine processing they are now proud carriers of an American passport.
To celebrate we met at restaurant, my family with theirs having a good time, feeling happy. After the dinner and our goodbyes I watched this family leave, I watched as they held their children and I felt a since of pride in knowing that Maria and Gerry were no longer living in the shadows and they were no longer just a number.