We Don’t Just Smell the Flowers

Joey relaxing on the windowsill with our orchids and amaryllis before we leave home tomorrow.

Joey here.

Jeffrey waded into the immigration law swamp in 1983. He and I have navigated kangaroo courts together since 1991. Sometimes Jeffrey supervised law students. Mostly he worked alone.

Jeffrey is tired.


It’s a long story.

Long is part of the problem.

It took 12 years for one of Jeffrey’s Nigerian clients, a physical therapist, to get a green card. U.S. citizenship for a saintly Ethiopian grandmother took 19 years. A green card for an Iranian who helped Americans during the 1979 Teheran hostage-taking took 7 years.

Et cetera.

It took 6 years, until this winter, for one of Jeffrey’s clients to be approved for U status, reserved for victims of U.S. crime. This spring the client, now in Europe, wrote to the local U.S. consulate to ask for instructions for issuance of a U visa. The consulate wrote back:

”Good morning. Thank you for reaching out to us in this regard. May we ask what a U-visa is?


Fer cryin’ out loud!!

[See Title 8 United States Code § 1101(a)(15)(U) and 9 Foreign Affairs Manual 402.6-2 (U) OVERVIEW OF VISAS FOR WITNESSES AND VICTIMS. These resources are on the official’s computer, the bookshelf, maybe the desk!]

Jeffrey wrote an exposé published in Bender’s Immigration Bulletin about government lawyers repeatedly lying to judges—e.g., mailing time-sensitive papers to Jeffrey days after swearing to a judge that Jeffrey’s copies already had been mailed. Bender’s published his second exposé about incompetent asylum officers—e.g., an officer who denied asylum to Jeffrey’s client despite the U.S. government’s human rights report that specifies that persons of the client’s nationality and religion are, in fact, persecuted.

Jeffrey rescued the clients involved. Then our government continued its business as usual.

Et cetera. Et cetera.

Jeffrey was attacked, his arm bruised and his suit torn, by an immigration court guard. Jeffrey was barred from an immigration jail because the letter Jeffrey had signed authorizing his law students to visit clients in the jail, did not include his own name on the authorized list.

It took years for Jeffrey to get citizenship for a client after an immigration official falsely claimed that the client’s spouse was a criminal, so that (in an illegal illogical double falsehood) the client was not of good moral character.

Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.

Thirty-nine years of this wore Jeffrey down.

Jeffrey takes no new cases. He only has the bandwidth to help his most recent clients, for whom he won asylum at no charge, complete their long journey to U.S. citizenship.

You’d understand if we decided to rest and smell the flowers.

But we won’t.

Because we still have a part to play in repairing the broken world.

Our role now is to leave the court fights to better lawyers than Jeffrey, most of whom are younger than he. (Some are younger than me!)

Instead, as in every year since 2011, we’ll do what the smart young lawyers have no time to do. We’ll take a few weeks to travel by bike, to listen to our neighbors, and to talk to them about justice, refugees, and human rights.

In eleven prior Rides, we haven’t stirred up the mass opposition that would end the wastefully cruel injustice of our immigration laws.

Like Archimedes, we lack the lever and the platform that would let us move the Earth—or the American people.

Still, we can show up. Again. In the American heartland. And try to open a few more hearts and minds.

So we will.

At least it gets us away from the law books.

And out of those windowless courtrooms.

While we smell the flowers too.

From coast to coast, some of the flowers that perfumed our Rides around the USA. That’s Jeffrey and me in California (bottom right corner).

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