For Immigrants, Fighting Hate With Hate Is Not The Answer

February 17, 2013 - Leave a Response

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

As I was driving back to my office from court the other day, a radio talk show host began to talk about immigration reform.

From the outset, his tone was hostile. His comments were rude and degrading.

Deep inside, I felt sad. Immigration reform is a tough enough issue already. The radio host’s attempt to induce a sense of cultural superiority was misplaced.

Xenophobia is not a sentiment worth embracing.

I could have easily slipped into feeling insulted and, worse, anger at the talk show host. His broad-based remarks were, in essence, demeaning my father, a first generation immigrant, and all others not born here — including his own ancestors.

He caused me to reflect on the earlier events of the day.

At the hearing, opposing counsel had made comments, though carefully couched, whose meaning was equally insulting about my client’s impoverished roots, limited education, and lack of sophistication.

Such behavior, even in our courts of law, is not uncommon.

Almost from the moment I became a San Diego immigration lawyer, I’ve heard similar remarks from all sorts of people. I’ve never fully understood the roots of such superiority.

In my view, unfamiliarity is a big part of the problem.

With radio show hosts, politicians, news reporters, and countless other public figures spewing out misguided commentary about foreigners, how can the public distinguish truth from fiction?

Being an immigration insider, I know many, many immigrants enter this country out of desperation. They violate our laws in the process. A higher urgency, like duty to family, often propels them forward.

Several people call them “illegals.”

Although I did not major in English, I know the word illegal is not a noun.

There are no illegal human beings. A child born out of wedlock is not illegal. A person sentenced to jail for robbery is not illegal.

The act of entering our country without permission is illegal.

Not the person.

We’re all children of God, despite our varying visions of the unknown and omniscient, and despite our different cultural and racial roots.

By now, I should be immune to negative sentiments espoused by a radio talk show host or an opposing attorney.

After fighting to defend immigrants from countries around the world for over two decades, one would probably assume my skin has grown thicker.

It hasn’t.

My feelings force me to think twice about how to respond during such moments.

After all, my parents did not teach me to hate. They taught me to love. They taught me to love all people, no matter how different we may be.

They understood love, not hate, is the answer to unjustified attacks on an individual’s character, worth, and dignity.

I know if my father could hear my internal rumblings, he would advise me to turn the other cheek and to let go of my negative feelings. He would tell me it takes a bigger person to walk away from hate than to respond in kind.

My mother would put it more bluntly. Sticks and stones may break your bones, she would tell me, but words never will.

For as Eleanor Roosevelt once noted:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

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For Successful Immigrants, Persistence Is Often The Key

January 20, 2013 - Leave a Response

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I was 17 years old, hanging out with friends, munching on Big Macs. All of us were high school seniors. We grew up in Southeast San Diego, where dreams were often crushed by the effects of poverty on education, community, and family.

We started talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up. When it was my turn, I said that I wanted to be a lawyer. Everyone started laughing. I couldn’t show it, but I was hurt, deeply hurt.

It felt like I was stranded alone on an island.

Even though the doubts of my peers amplified my own personal doubts, I knew my dreams were attainable.

After all, my mother had told me at least 100 times growing up, “If there is a will, there is a way.”

She explained to me that, at some point in their lives, everyone feels overwhelmed and demoralized. But she insisted, this is when you should not quit. She emphasized a better day is often lurking just around the corner, so long as people keep moving forward.

My mother taught me how to persist.

“Fall down seven times,” says a Japanese proverb, “Get up eight.”

When you’re chasing your dreams, you are likely to fall short at some time. Get up, dust yourself off, and start fighting again. Eventually, you’ll achieve your dreams.

You won’t succeed if you accept the pessimism of others.

You won’t succeed if you let personal doubts control your decisions.

You won’t succeed if you quit.

The ability to keep on truckin’ when times are bad is a trait many immigrants must have in order to overcome the hurdles they face once they enter our immigration system.

Ernesto was a 48 year old immigrant from Guatemala. In 1990, he applied for asylum. He lost. He applied under ABC. He applied under NACARA. He was sent to immigration court to face deportation charges. In December 2012, three judges later, he became a lawful permanent resident.

Lucy entered the U.S. in the 1980s and worked in the fields picking crops and doing hard labor. She sought benefits under the old Reagan legalization programs but was denied. 23 years later, she was granted a green card.

George was 24 years old when he filed his first set of immigration documents. After ten years of court battles, after three immigration court trials and three immigration appeals, his case was successfully resolved at the federal court of appeals.

As a deportation defense lawyer, I have been fortunate to meet and help many other successful immigrants who have overcome huge odds to become productive, law-abiding permanent residents and citizens of the United States.

Like Ernesto, Lucy, and George, they refused to give up. They won because they would not allow themselves to become immobilized by setbacks.

They won because they believed a better day was lurking around the corner.

Like Ernesto, Lucy, and George, they shared an important understanding about life’s many challenges:

“Persistent people begin their success where others end in failure.”

Most Immigrants Who Win Give Far More Than They Ask For

January 13, 2013 - Leave a Response

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As an immigration attorney who specializes in deportation defense, I’ve learned there is a common thread among immigrants who win their cases.

They give far more to others than they ask in return.

It’s an intangible quality. Yet, it’s very real.

Within the first 10 – 20 minutes of my initial meeting with clients, the presence of such a quality cannot be missed. I spot it as soon as we start to discuss my potential client’s immigration history and family situation.

It’s why this person left their home country, usually thousands of miles away, with nothing certain but uncertainty.

It’s why this person is worried about losing and getting deported back to their home country.

It’s why this person refuses to simply give up and arrived at my immigration law office seeking help.

And it’s why this person’s family needs him to win his immigration case.

Take Cipriano, a former client of mine from Mexico. He was 38 years old when he was apprehended by immigration agents for being here without inspection.

His family in Mexico was dirt poor and often went days without food. He was the second oldest son. As soon as he turned 18, he left for the U.S. His goal was to find temporary work in the fields which would allow him to send money to his family back home.

He did not intend to remain in the United States. But as luck would have it, he met Yolanda and fell in love. Over the course of the next 15 years, they had three children, two sons and a daughter.

All of the kids did well in school, never got in trouble, and took part in school, church, and community activities.

Cipriano participated in their school activities, often volunteering to set up equipment and booths for special school events, and building special shelving and tables for classrooms. He and his wife went to teacher-parent conferences regularly and were active in the PTA.

As we talked, Cipriano told me about how much he enjoyed taking his kids to the movies, to the library to read books and special shows, to Padres baseball games, and to church on the weekend. He laughed when he recalled teaching them how to swim. He was excited about being the coach’s assistant for their soccer team.

He did not doubt his ability to survive if he was removed from the U.S. But he was worried about what would happen to his wife and his children.

His cancellation of removal case at immigration court rested on a concept known as hardship. How would his U.S. children suffer, asked the judge, if Cipriano was deported?

I knew. It was my job to help Cipriano prove it.

Unfortunately, not all parents, immigrant or otherwise, are as concerned for the welfare of their offspring as Cipriano.

Some potential clients cannot tell me what classes their children are studying, what grades they’re getting, or what their children want to be when they grow up.

Obviously, something is missing from that kind of parent-child relationship.

And that “something” which is missing pervades everything in such an individual’s life, from his relationship with his wife, to his attitude about work, and even about his need to seek top quality legal assistance.

For such persons, being part of a collective whole – a family, a community, a nation – is not a priority.

On the other hand, those immigrants, who live a life dedicated to something larger than self, are far more likely to emerge victorious at the end of their court battles.

Like Cipriano.

For by building a stronger family and richer community, Cipriano was helping to forge a greater nation.

Although Cipriano has never consciously pondered the meaning of John Kennedy’s 1960 inauguration commentary . . .

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

. . . he has lived it.

All Successful Immigrants Must Ask Themselves, “Why Not?”

January 8, 2013 - Leave a Response

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I was a teenager when I first heard those words.

It was a sad, sad moment.  Ted Kennedy, the youngest of the three Kennedy brothers, was giving the eulogy at his brother’s funeral.

The evening before Robert was shot and killed in Los Angeles, I had shaken his hand as he toured Southeast San Diego in an open motorcade. 

As a young Latino, who grew up on Logan Avenue, in an poor part of town, the moment was magical.  I had shaken the hand of the future president of the United States.

The rest is history.  Kennedy won the California primary and seemed headed to the White House.  But on the evening of his great victory, his life ended.

Throughout my entire adult life, Kennedy’s words have never stopped ringing in my ears.

From a poor kid who wanted to become a lawyer, to a lawyer who wants to help immigrants achieve their far-fetched dreams, I am inspired by Kennedy’s words.

I ask myself, almost daily, “Why not?”

Today, as an immigration attorney – helping clients from countries as diverse as Mexico and Morocco, China and Columbia, India and Ireland earn the right to live and work in the United States – I represent strong individuals, chasing a dream of something that has never been in their life.

Whether conscious or not, all successful immigrants, at one time or another, ask themselves, “Why not?”

Last week, for instance, Albert and Shirley, a young couple came to my office seeking, from Redlands, California, immigration services.

Along with his mother, Albert had escaped from Honduras, a country which has suffered quite a bit over the past 10 years. 

As a young child, he had obtained temporary protected status (TPS). 

He finished high school and began to attend a local junior college.   That’s where he met Shirley, a United States citizen, in a history class.  They became friends.  They started dating. Now they were thinking about marriage.

However, first things first.

Could Albert become a lawful permanent resident and later a citizen of the United States?

They knew for mixed immigrant families, family unity is a major issue.

They understood that TPS is a temporary shelter for immigrants.  When it ends, Albert will be once again subject to deportation and removal.

Yet, they wanted to spend their lives together in the United States.

When I agreed to help them, there was a common, unspoken bond between the three of us:

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

From Civil War to Community

September 5, 2009 - Leave a Response

el-salvador-guerillaBorn in El Salvador, Ana Martinez was raised in a comfortable environment. Although she did not know her father, her mother’s family members held respectable positions in the Salvadorian government. Her grandfather had been a colonel in the military. A former Ms. Universe contestant, pianist, and opera singer, her mother worked for the Ministry of Education, raising Ana and her two brothers as a single parent. However, a civil war erupted. This tore the country apart and placed her family in jeopardy.

THE DISRUPTION OF CIVIL WAR

Shortly after Ana’s two older brothers, one majoring in engineering and the other in arts, enrolled in college, they began participating in student protest activities. Within a few months, the civil war escalated. Ana’s brothers were approached by guerrilla leaders. They feared retaliation if they did not join the movement to overthrow the government.

To protect her sons, Ana’s mother sold the family home and used the money to send them to live with relatives in the United States. Within the next year, the conditions in El Salvador worsened. The civil war grew more violent. Murders and massacres spread. Ana’s mother knew she and Ana might become a target for the guerrillas. Painfully, she decided they had to move.

On the morning of Ana’s ninth birthday, Ana and her mother left to join her brothers. Her entire wardrobe consisted of three dresses. Like her mother, Ana couldn’t speak, read, or write English.

The journey to America did nothing to reassure her. She and her mother traveled through El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico – by bus, car, train, and foot. They went without food and comfortable sleep for long hours. People they met along the way were often rude and mean-spirited. After several weeks, they reached the Rio Grande. They entered the United States in mid-September of 1981 and relocated in Los Angeles, California.

AN UNFRIENDLY WELCOME

200px-Flag_of_the_United_States_svgAna was miserable and upset after the move. She had not wanted to leave her country. In El Salvador, she had left a nice home, close friends, and nine-year old fun. She did not like her new school and could not communicate in English. She and her mother rented a small room as sub-tenants in the Korea Town area. Her mother, once a respected government employee,found work as a housekeeper, earning less than minimum wage.

Her brothers, having been in the U.S. a year longer, took on the burden of providing for their mother and little sister. High achieving college students at home, one brother went to work as a janitor and the other took a job in a textile factory while they went to school at night to learn English. Together they earned enough to pay for a studio apartment so the four of them could live together again.

Ana was transferred to a school in Santa Monica, which, in the early 1980s, was not a culturally diverse area. Her classmates at Westwood Elementary School were not hospitable. They called her a “wetback” and other names. Although she was from El Salvador, they taunted her, “Go back to Mexico. We don’t want you here.”

A LITTLE HELP GOES A LONG WAY

Soon afterwards, Ana and her family caught some lucky breaks.

First, Ana found a new friend, a girl from Puerto Rico who spoke both Spanish and English. With her friend’s help, Ana began learning English. By the sixth grade, Ana was a “C” student.

Second, a new immigration program called legalization was approved by the Reagan Administration. This law enabled Ana’s family to become lawful permanent residents and, over time, naturalized U.S. citizens. Having mastered English, her older brothers resumed their college studies and became successful professionals. One graduated with a degree in computer technology; he continues to work in this field today. The other is currently the Chief Executive Officer for an Assisted Living facility in Studio City.

Ana, too, pursued higher education. She graduated from Pomona High School in 1990. She was accepted to San Diego State University but the pace was too fast for her. She left SDSU and re-enrolled at San Bernardino Valley Junior College. After earning an Associate Degree of Science in 1996, she promptly passed the State Certification exam and became a Registered Nurse.

In 1999 she resumed her studies, enrolling at Holy Names University in Oakland, California. She graduated in 2001 with a B.S. degree in Nursing. She worked a few years at the Loma Linda Medical Center. Later she took a position at Kaiser Permanente, where she currently works in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Having met at SDSU, Ana married Jose Martinez in 1994. Jose, presently a graduate student at California Baptist University, works as a substitute teacher in the San Jacinto Unified School District and as a private tutor. They have three daughters, ages 6, 8, and 13.

LOOKING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK

186px-Flag_of_El_Salvador_svgBesides working full-time, Ana volunteers 20-30 per week. She serves as the PTO President at her oldest daughter’s middle school and PTA historian at her younger children’s elementary school. She also helps out in her six-year old’s kindergarten class on a weekly basis. In addition, she is a member of the School District’s ELAC Committee and Advisory Council.

Ana works closely with Hispanic parents, many of them first generation immigrants like herself. She understands the move here can be overwhelming. In particular, she feels a special mission to work with students who struggle in school, just as she did many years ago.

“Too many young Hispanics,” she notes, “do not see school as important. They just want to get through school, and view college as a waste of time. They don’t want to learn English and just want to go to work, even if it is a low wage position.”

Ana no longer misses El Salvador. Her memories are blurred. She does not follow news about her homeland – except for a brief period when Armando Calderon, el-salvador-memory-wallher mother’s cousin, was President from 1994 to 1999. She does not have any Salvadorian friends, nor has she been in contact with any relatives who remained behind. She still enjoys eating her native food but only knows two restaurants which serve Salvadorian food. Ana wants to go back someday for “closure” and to show her children where she and her family lived.

Despite earning a college degree and working as a professional for over a decade, Ana still experiences discrimination. When she enters a hospital room, patients sometimes ask her, “Are you here to take out the trash?”

Co-workers ask her why other immigrants aren’t like her. She hears their complaints, “They’re a bunch of free-loaders living on welfare with too many kids.” She knows this is an unfair criticism made by people who do not truly understand the immigrant’s journey to America.

Normally, Ana doesn’t waste time responding. In her view, people will always have biases and prejudices. Hostility towards immigrants, she feels, has increased over the past ten years.

Instead, she focuses on her good fortune. “In America, you can make a difference. You can live a better life. With a little sacrifice and hard work, you can achieve almost anything.”

Green Cards Aren’t Green

November 10, 2008 - Leave a Response

And Not All Immigration Attorneys Are True Blue.

Immigration Attorney Carlos Batara launches his new website, BataraImmigrationLaw.com, today to provide a reference center for immigrants seeking information and advice, as well as an online sanctuary providing refuge, compassion, and commitment.

carlos_seated_200pxMarch 23, 2009, Riverside, CA – Carlos Batara’s new website BataraImmigrationLaw.com is being launched to contribute a more comprehensive approach to the practice of immigration law. Asserting “the United States gains strength from diversity and immigrants are assets to the U.S. economy and culture,” Batara now presents an educational and legal internet portal, designed by TheWebCoach.net, for immigrants pursuing their dreams of becoming lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens.

As an immigration trial attorney, Batara knows protecting immigrants is one of the hardest jobs today. Each year, deportation defense becomes tougher. More and more rigid laws are passed – increasing the difficulty of winning removal cases. This makes it more important than ever for immigrants and their family members to find reliable information about the immigration process.

For immigrants who are thinking about hiring an attorney, there are certain truths they need to know about immigration law:

  • Immigration Law Is Complex And Unpredictable
  • Immigration Law Can Change Human Lives – Forever
  • Immigration Law Is About Advocacy And Commitment

BataraImmigrationLaw.com offers a wide variety of resources including an online articles library, agency and government links, political and social blogs, human interest stories, immigration newsletters, and personal consultations to create a solid cornerstone for clients.

“Lawyers like Carlos Batara are, quite simply, a rarity. He represents everything that is meant by… “quality legal care.” While he is serious and passionate, he carries a soft heart for those he adopts as clients. When it counts the most, this is the attorney I want on my side. Carlos is the person I want with me when times get tough.”

—Jose Cruz, San Diego, California

Carlos Batara has been passionate about immigration and multiculturalism since he was young. His father emigrated from the Philippines. His mother, born in New Mexico, brought a heritage of Mexican and Spanish roots to his upbringing.

The Law Offices of Carlos Batara have three locations in Southern California. The offices specialize in immigration law, but place a unique emphasis on appeals, trials, and complex cases.

Batara, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has represented over 1,000 clients from more than 60 different countries. He has helped clients being held in custody pending deportation, clients lacking papers proving they were U.S. citizens, clients fleeing from abusive spouses, clients who have been the victim of immigration fraud, and clients escaping persecution from hostile regimes.

“Being a lawyer is a special honor,” Batara explains, “an honor which comes with obligations and responsibilities. I may not be able to guarantee the outcomes of cases. But I promise to always do my best.”

The launching of http://www.BataraimmigrationLaw.com takes Batara’s compassion for and commitment to good, honest, and hardworking immigrants to a vigorous new level of legal representation.

Contact
Batara Immigration Law
640 N. San Jacinto Street, Suite J
Hemet, CA 92543
Tel: 800.646.0667
Local: (951) 929-0782

inquiry@BataraImmigrationLaw.com

Remember, remember always, that all of of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”

— Franklin D. Roosevelt