In order to best serve people, requisite knowledge and understanding of that people must first be obtained. Much like a doctor cannot best treat and aid a patient without knowing his or her health record and status, an immigration attorney cannot reach their maximum potential for serving clients without first gaining an understanding of their condition. In this vein, my supervisor has furnished my cubicle with two books in hopes of cultivating this necessary sense of understanding. Each of these has proven to be one of, if not the most didactic aspects of my fellowship thus far this summer.
Each book focuses on one major immigrant community in the United States, including Columbus, and their collective struggle: the domestic pressures that catalyzed the mass exodus from their native countries. Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream by Sam Quinones illustrates the plight of the rural Mexicanos, the scintillating draw of migration to the United States, legal or otherwise, and the effects of the mass emigration, both direct and collateral, on Mexico and its people.
What is the What by Dave Eggers highlights the excruciating journey of one Sudanese boy from his home, to menacing refugee camps, and ultimately to a hostile home in the fabled land of America. These books are entrenched in real stories, directly from primary sources, and paint painfully lucid pictures of immigrants and their circumstances in the US. The land of opportunity, seen as a reprieve from their home countries by immigrants, a sort of paradise on Earth, is riddled with obstacles and unseen difficulties for migrators. Language is a natural barrier, rampant racism and hate crimes are not; unfortunately, most immigrants are subjected to these ugly realities, and they ultimately serve as catapulting stones that shatter the mystical view of sublimity many immigrants construct of the United States before their arrival.
Empathy is intrinsic to virtually every nonprofit organization; but empathy is not enough to appropriately serve others, to truly help ameliorate their adverse condition. Extensive knowledge of the community in need is imperative. Gaining this knowledge and subsequent understanding takes time and effort, but similar to the work a doctor invests in learning about his patients, those serving others must invest in educating themselves on their targeted communities. Sometimes, it is as simple as reading the right books.