In the good old times, when I lived an exciting life of a kid- dissident evading Yugoslav secret police, I was serving certain very defined cold-war stupidity purpose, and the big-wigs of American human rights and legal sphere were talking to me. Guys who later went to sit on the board of Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, wrote a book about human rights abuses in Yugoslavia in 1988. My case was also mentioned. Nevertheless, I was left there to survive on my own and find a way to leave. I did it. When I managed to come here (which I always wanted, probably misguided by excellent marketing of the "land of the free, home of the brave"), the Soviet Block died, Yugoslavia hemorrhaged, and I couldn't get Lawyers Committee for Human Rights even to have decency to represent me in asylum proceedings. My case suddenly became to convoluted. As a part of "Balkans quagmire" I am shifted from one paralegal to another and my hearings are perpetually postponed by INS. Which I actually stopped complaining about, since nobody is forcing me to leave.

From time to time, however, misguided by my acquaintances, I give it a shot again. The latest outrage from somebody who was supposed to be on "my side" came from a paralegal working for the Center for Immigrants Rights. "People who want to stay in this country, have to pay," she said. She urged me to "go in debt," which I'd easy repay by a few years of toiling later when I receive my work permit. I asked her how much does the 'green card' cost, and she said "$ 3500." Of course, she did *not* suggest anything illegal. This is how much I'd pay a lawyer to win my case. There was a slight implication in her proposal that with a lawyer I can win my case, although she never heard my case. Therefore, I am inclined to believe that she wanted to suggest that with a good lawyer I can win any case in any court in this country. Which is little to far an assumption for a doctoral candidate in Political Sciences, herself an over- achiever daughter of Chilean immigrants. O.J. Simpson was not mentioned in the conversation. But he was definitely there, laughing behind my back.

I confronted her with facts: that I work and that I am in debt already. Furthermore, I stated that I was not convinced so far by any lawyer that she or he could help me. They were mostly arrogant, dismissive and ignorant. Some of the paralegals knew less about American legal system then I do. So, I am not about to give some schmack my money and then get deported. After being entirely unsympathetic to me since the beginning of conversation (with no apparent reason), she said that I was not making myself more sympathetic to her, and that I have to change my attitude or start packing my bags. Then she gave me some other phone numbers, I thanked her for that and we ended our pleasurable conversation on that note.

Conclusion: either lawyer's caste gets its $ 3500 or you better pack your bags. Is that what "immigrants rights", which Center for Immigrants Rights supposedly hopes to represent, boil down to?




back to the main storyline