Law brings order, relief to life of immigrant mother
Not too long ago, before the snow piles had made open-air igloos out of every intersection, I came to something of a crossroads in my life. I became a lawyer at age 49.
Sitting in the august chambers of the Connecticut Supreme Court building, I was getting ready to introduce myself as Attorney Marie Grady for the first time. Since that was not much of an introduction to remember – even for a brain taxed by three years of law school and two bar exams – naturally my mind wandered.
In the program for the official swearing-in ceremony was a collection of quotes about the law. By far, these were not the most stirring quotes I had read. When it comes to law and justice, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. still can bring a chill. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” the civil rights icon once declared.
Perhaps the most influential lawyer of all, President Abraham Lincoln, also is remembered for his epic elegance in summoning up the pillars of justice this country was supposed to be founded upon.
Still, there was something about the words of Archibald MacLeish, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, that seemed to capture what the law means to anyone who calls a lawyer. The law is a language unto itself, that if spoken correctly, can “make sense of what we call the confusion of human life.”
When I read the quote in that great hall, I thought of a struggling immigrant mother who had just learned from the U.S. government that it intended to deny her husband’s petition to put her on a path to citizenship. One of the problems, according to the government officer who read her husband’s petition, is that he had to move to another state to find work. His wife could not join him because she had just started a desperately needed medical trial which was her only hope of combating a debilitating disease.
At the crux of the long notice of intent to deny from the government was this question: How could this couple have a bona fide marriage when they weren’t living together full time?
Confusion and fear swept across her face as she explained her dilemma. Her body seemed to contort itself into a tight knot as if to gird herself against the massive might of a government which was suspicious of her intentions. How would she and the son who had known no other home be able to stay?
At the time I was crafting appeals to a number of such decisions for an attorney while awaiting my bar exam results.
Over the next few days, we figured out how. For one thing, more than 3 million U.S. citizen spouses are forced to live apart for work these days, a number that has increased as the recession keeps its icy grip on the economy. She and her husband were no different.
Within a few weeks of filing a response, the government changed its mind. It turned out this young immigrant mother could stay after all. The confusion and fear were replaced with a smile. There were still worries, but one that had once seemed insurmountable had now been put to rest.
As Mr. Macleish once said, the law had not only reduced this problem to order, but at the same time, had given one life “possibility, scope, even dignity.”