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Finding Hope When There Seemingly is None

In this anti-immigrant, raid- laden climate many are depressed and without hope. This deep depression is not limited to those who lack legal immigration status…

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In this anti-immigrant, raid- laden climate many are depressed and without hope. This deep depression is not limited to those who lack legal immigration status but also extends to those who are on F-1 student visas, with their one year of "practical training" ending before they are eligible to obtain H-1B status due to the very limited ( 65,000 and another 20,000 for U.S. masters degree holders ) number of annual  H-1B visas. These students, absent a change in law, will most probably be required to depart from the U.S., despite their many years of investment in life in this country and their hope and expectation that the U.S. would be their ultimate home. Many others, especially those with third preference employment based petitions and corresponding adjustment of status applications that have been pending forever, see no light at the end of the very long tunnel and, once they see the July 2008 Visa Bulletin in which third preference will become unavailable, will become even more certain that there is very little to look forward to in the immediate future.

To all of you I offer some hope, given to me unexpectedly by a woman who I met on a recent flight to Indianapolis. As an immigration attorney I frequently must fly to meet with clients or attend and lecture at conferences but I have a secret: since 1980, when the plane that I was on flipped on its side and started a downhill spiral without any warning, I have been terrified to fly. However, an immigration attorney who cannot fly is like an immigration attorney who hates immigrants and hence I find myself, unhappily, in the air much more than I would like. When flying with my family members, they fight to see who has the privilege of not sitting near me. Fortunately, like Blanche Dubois, I have learned to depend on the kindness of strangers and usually find some kindhearted passenger to chat with me throughout the flight to distract me from the fear of another unexpected downhill spiral.

My kindhearted stranger this weekend was an older woman from New Jersey who boarded a 10 a.m. flight with me, set to arrive at 12:30 or thereabouts in Indianapolis. This brave soul, who told me that she had flown only twice before in her life, planned to make the 3:00 flight back home that same day, only a few hours later. Why? She was picking up a special puppy from a breeder in the Midwest to keep the last of the 6 of the remaining six greyhound dogs that she had rescued "company". She turned to me and said: "I know that you probably think I'm nuts". I disagreed, stating that if this gave her pleasure, why not enjoy the moment for life is so difficult and curves are thrown so unexpectedly. It was then that she told me that at age 69, she had "beaten" breast cancer two times, had buried a husband after 25 years of marriage due to cancer and had just celebrated 22 years of a second marriage to a wonderful man, who had been widowed when his third daughter turned 6 and had raised three daughters without their natural mother. My new friend pointed out that after surviving all of the above, flying did not make her afraid.

As we bid each other goodbye, I could not stop but think how uplifted she had made me feel, how filled with hope and wonder. I thought of the immigration mess than our country is now in, of all my clients who live each day with reduced hope for a better tomorrow. I realized that if this amazing woman could survive all that she had and still look forward to the next day with hope and pleasure, perhaps we, too, could see a ray of hope for a resolution of U.S. immigration policy in the future and fly the airplane of life without fear, despite horrible current turbulence. It's a thought…

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