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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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DACA, Still a Mirage

Posted By Guest Blogger Vaani Chawla, Wednesday, July 1, 2020

My husband woke me up with excitement in his voice, “DACA is here to stay!” I was happy to hear it, but I didn’t trust the feeling.


I remember when Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) was first announced in 2012. It sounded like a gift. It was a policy based on the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, to refrain from pursuing removal cases against young undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children.


Many who qualify don’t remember the place of their birth. Their earliest childhood memories are here in the United States. Some didn’t learn they were undocumented until they were in their teens, ready to explore their options for higher education.


DACA also opened the door for these young people to legally work in the United States by issuing them work permits. Work permits paved the way for them to open bank accounts, pay taxes, and attend universities. I could see that DACA had the potential to change lives.


Many people came to me, as an immigration lawyer, asking for help to apply for DACA. They were surprised to see the worry in my face. I warned them that as much as I understood the opportunity DACA presented, it was not rooted in solid ground. It wasn’t statutory law. It was based on a policy memorandum signed by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) Secretary under President Obama. I warned them that Obama would not be president forever and that a future president with a different outlook might be elected. I told them that the stroke of one pen was giving them an opportunity, but the stroke of another might destroy it.


Over time, I observed how DACA changed the lives of two people close to my family. One of them is an expressive artist who works on large commissioned art projects around the United States, including one for the San Diego Airport. The other, a high performing student, became a physician’s assistant and is providing healthcare to San Diegans.


While the artist and physician’s assistant were growing into contributing, productive adults, a different president was elected with a different outlook. The new administration attempted to rescind DACA. The new DHS Secretary had set a deadline for DACA to expire. Federal Courts intervened and nationwide injunctions were entered, preventing DACA from expiring. The administration did not relent. It took the matter to the United States Supreme Court.


The last few years have kept DACA recipients on edge. They see a dream that seems within reach. They know what a productive life in the United States looks and feels like. But the sands have been shifting under their feet.


The Supreme Court’s recent decision brought on a moment of jubilation, but I was right not to trust the feeling. The decision, partly premised on a procedural failure, bought more time. But DACA recipients are vulnerable to political winds. They continue to stand on shifting sand reaching for an illusory promise. Without grounding in statutory law, DACA remains a mirage. It can disappear.

Vaani Chawla is an incoming Lawyers Club board member, the immediate past president of the South Asian Bar Association of San Diego, founder of Chawla Law Group, APC, and provides legal representation to families and businesses in immigration matters.

 

Tags:  activism  advocacy  DACA  immigrants  immigration  justice  Supreme Court 

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Trump v. Hawaii

Posted By Jylan Megahed , Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Trump v. Hawaii 

 

On January 28, 2017, according to Trump's key adviser, “When Donald Trump first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim Ban.’  He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’” This was noted in Justice Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion of the June 26, 2018, Muslim Ban case, Trump v. Hawaii. Yet Chief Justice Roberts reasoned, “The Proclamation is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices. The text says nothing about religion.”

Did the text need to say anything about religion, when President Trump himself called the Executive Order a “Muslim Ban?” Our highest court failed us, largely because the Supreme Court did not review the Executive Order under strict scrutiny. This, despite Sotomayor’s dissent, citing Supreme Court precedent: “[I]n other Establishment Clause cases, including those involving claims of religious animus or discrimination, this Court has applied a more stringent standard of review.” Ultimately, the Supreme Court applied rational-basis scrutiny in Trump v. Hawaii.

As a Muslim-American attorney, I am affected by the Muslim Ban because our faith teaches us that everyone is our brother and sister in Islam. I grew up between San Diego and Phoenix within the Muslim community. I have lifelong Muslim-American friends with roots from Syria, Yemen, and Iran. In preparation to write this, I’ve asked some of them if they could tell me how the Muslim Ban directly impacted them. To my surprise, they declined to be interviewed for this blog in fear that they would be targeted in some way. This reminded me of how scared I was when I felt that I’d somehow be deported due to President Trump's first Executive Order on January 27, 2017. Many did not understand my fear since I’ve been a U.S. citizen for over 15 years now. My distress stemmed from the unknown and the rapid changes in the laws. I was paranoid that the laws would change while I traveled to a foreign country, and thereby, prevent me from returning home to San Diego. I did not genuinely believe I, a feisty attorney, would be denied entry with my U.S. Passport, but I did not want to go through the obstacle of having to argue my way back into my country. Sadly, I later learned from some of my friends that they did have an exceptionally difficult time entering the U.S. after they vacationed in Mexico. My fear was their reality.

The only positivity that comes from this Supreme Court's decision is that it forces all marginalized groups to be politically and socially aware. It is inhumane that now my brothers and sister in Islam will continue to live in fear because their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. cannot enter the U.S. to escape the wars in Syria, Yemen, Iran, Chad, and Somalia. The U.S. is effectively imprisoning them. Muslim-Americans contribute significantly to our San Diego community, as lawyers, doctors, professors, engineers, pharmacists, therapists, nurses, social workers, police officers, and the list goes on. Although Trump v. Hawaii was a defeat, the support from communities all over the country proves that nothing will puncture our hope. We will continue to stand together, as one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Jylan Megahed co-chairs Lawyers Club’s Community Outreach Committee, works as a Family Law solo practitioner, and serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for foster children in San Diego County.


Tags:  dissent  hope  immigration  Muslim Ban  rational-basis  Sotomayor  strict scrutiny  Supreme Court  travel  Trump  Trump v. Hawaii 

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Life Imitates Law: Words Can Convey or Destroy Dignity

Posted By Bobbi-Jo Dobush, Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Life Imitates Law: Words Can Convey or Destroy Dignity

 

Bombastic litigators, craftsman brief writers, and shrewd contract drafters all stake their clients’ best interests on choosing the right words in the search for just outcomes. So, as much or more than to anyone else, lawyers should care how we refer to other humans, especially those most vulnerable.

 

Flood, wave, swarm – these words evoke a sense of fear, of disaster. Reading headlines with such words, I struggle to remember if should get under the desk or into a door-jam.  But these aren’t headlines about tsunamis, earthquakes, or hurricanes. Instead, a quick news search of articles in recent months comes up with titles like “Flood of Illegal Immigrants Continues at Texas Border,” “Illegals Pour Across Border Before Trump's Inauguration,” and “Illegals Swarm in.” After reading those, who wouldn’t be scared of migrants?

 

Helen Zaltzman, that’s who. Zaltzman fearlessly confronts language on a bi-weekly basis in her word-nerd podcast The Allusionist, Small Adventures in Language. (Catch me on my morning commute soaking in some etymology.) Allusionist Episode 53, The Away Team, is all about how terms used to describe migrants have become increasingly negative over time. The episode focuses on Britain, but is equally applicable to our side of the Atlantic. 

 

Zaltman and I are both offended by the misuse of words in the migration context. Many of us refer to fellow humans by category (refugee, asylee, unaccompanied minor). Propaganda and migration specialist Emma Briant opined that doing so gives “preference [for] how officials are sorting [people] over their very basic humanity.” To make matters worse, terms that were once neutral have become negative. Since when do “refugees” or “asylum seekers” (people who are, by definition, escaping persecution) invoke skepticism and not sympathy? Also—and this should really trouble us as lawyers—the term illegal gets tossed about lightly in this context. Most migrants have broken no laws, and even those who have are not “illegal” because, to quote Briant again, “people cannot be illegal.” 

 

Zaltzman, interviewing novelist and editor Nikesh Shukla, further highlights how often migration status is used as a proxy for race. All over the English-speaking world, wealthy or middle class whites who have chosen to live abroad are “expats” not “immigrants.” We never talk about a “swarm” of wealthy white people (well, maybe talking about Coachella, but that’s a conversation for another time.)

 

The Away Team ends with a reminder that most words in the English language are themselves immigrants (French, Latin, Germanic, Greek, and Scandinavian). Zaltzman warns that without such immigrant words, “you lose at least 60% of modern English plus most scientific and technological vocabulary.”   

Many Allusionist episodes are about fun stuff like sex (Episodes 50-51, Under the Covers) or manners on either side of the Atlantic (Episode 33, Please); however, there are other great listens with a focus on equality like Episode 12, Pride, or Episode 52, Sanctuary.

Bobbi-Jo Dobush believes that sharing our diverse passions—for example the arts, the ocean, or salsa (the condiment)—can positively influence our practices. 

 

Tags:  art  awareness  bias  discrimination  equality  immigration  language  LCB  podcasts  word choice 

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