For those of you who know me, you know I like to read. Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors, and one of his most famous lines is “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” (from A Tale of Two Cities).
It’s amazing how a sentence written in England in 1859 applied so perfectly to my professional life in Atlanta, Georgia in February 2015.
On a recent morning, I appeared in the Atlanta Immigration Court for an asylum trial. Asylum trials are never easy. I have to ask people about horrific experiences and the judge and the government attorney, as part of their job, have to question my client’s story and make sure that they are telling the truth.
It’s a grueling process. It’s particularly difficult in Atlanta when we have an average approval rate of about 10% – meaning that when you walk into court, you know the odds are not in your favor.
I won’t go into the details about my client’s case, but it was a domestic violence asylum claim. She went through some pretty brutal experiences back in her home country. After an hour of questioning and picking apart her claim, the case was denied.
Thankfully, we have the right to appeal and she can remain in the United States while we continue the fight. However, seeing her shoulders slump when the judge said he was denying her case, the desolation on her face when I told her that her children could not yet come to join her in the United States…well, it all made for a very difficult, “worst of times” moment.
A few hours later, I was back at my office and opening the mail.
You may recall that I had my first U visa denied last fall by the Vermont Service Center. I appealed that decision. And now I could tell from the envelope in my hands that a decision on that appeal had been made.
I opened the envelope and quickly read through the formalities to get to the decision at the end.
The U visa that had been originally denied had now been granted. Now a woman and her family who had thought their last chance for staying in the United States had come and gone are able to stay here. They get to stay together and continue the healing process after she had been a victim in a terrible crime.
Knowing that immigration is one less thing she has to worry about – particularly after the initial denial – is one of the “best of times” moments of my career.
Immigration law is an extremely hard area of law to practice. The laws are always changing, there are a lot of misconceptions and prejudices about the people I help, and the personal stories are just too personal to not creep into my heart.
I deeply feel each victory and each defeat. And some days, I feel both and it is then “the best of times and the worst of times.”