"I am so grateful to Equal Justice America for giving me the opportunity to work towards protecting the rights of some of the most vulnerable communities. We can’t restrict human rights only to the success stories – every individual must be guaranteed the right to basic living essentials and security of person. I want to do away with the ‘good immigrant’ narrative in my work. Immigrants who come to the U.S., for whatever reason, with whatever background, are entitled to have their voices heard and to be treated with humanity and respect."
As a child, I recalled my parents discussing their green card applications. I remember them telling me that there was something they were waiting for, but if they didn’t get it, then we would have to go to Taiwan – a land I had only visited once, and just for a few weeks to see my extended family.
I grew up in a sizable Chinese-American community, and many of my friends had similar experiences or were immigrants themselves. Everything worked out for us, but we were the success stories.
In law school, I enrolled in the Immigration and Refugee Clinic and was posted at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS). Immigration had always been a shadowy presence in my life, and I wanted a chance to help others take back their narrative. In the clinic, I represented clients seeking asylum by conducting interviews with them, drafting affidavits, and filing these documents at immigration court. I had one client in particular who was seeking asylum after fleeing from violence and persecution on the basis of her gender and her outspoken beliefs in gender equality. Men and gang members had targeted her and her child, and because she refused to submit, she was forced to flee.
She had her case heard before an immigration judge and was ultimately granted asylum. While she testified on the stand, I was reminded of how much trauma she had to recall to satisfy the legal system. My supervisor had been careful to teach me an important lesson – that our clients are the ones who made it here. There are so many more who didn’t.
My client in this case was another success story. Like my friends were. Like my family was. All of us had “clean” and simple narratives – we never had any trouble with the law in our home countries or in the U.S. We were “hardworking” and had carved “successful” paths for ourselves. But there are so many more people caught in our immigration system with complicated and messy narratives that deserve rigorous representation and a zealous advocate as well. In these current times, it is ever easier to inadvertently pit the “good” immigrants against the “bad” in order to make immigration reform more appealing, but this will only do more harm. There is no justice for just a few; there is only justice when it is for all.