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Looking at immigration from north of the border

Divya Potdar

Divya Potdar

For this week’s travel journal entry — I mean, law blog post — I decided to write about my time in Canada at a joint conference organized by the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and the Young Bar of Montreal. There were many similarities between the ABA YLD conferences I attended in Little RockSt. Louis and Detroit, such as the networking and learning opportunities. However, attending events alongside young Montreal attorneys made this a much more thought-provoking experience.

Many of the Canadian lawyers shared their thoughts on the immigration ban and the health care bill that recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives. And, since we were in French-speaking Quebec, the presidential election in France was also was discussed, as was a comparison between candidate Marine Le Pen and President Donald Trump. The American president was the topic of discussion and sarcasm in several conversations with the Canadian bench and bar, and even an oratory competition.

It was remarkable to see the diversity in Montreal and Toronto (which I had visited on a previous occasion). The multicultural populations seemed to embrace each others’ differences and welcome immigrants who did not look like them. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also helps this unity by setting a similar example and repeatedly stating that diversity is Canada’s strength.  

Meanwhile, as I was scanning the news back home on my phone, I came across articles regarding the Rockville high school rape charges that made national news because the suspects were immigrants. The White House even used this story as an example of why Trump was cracking down on illegal immigration. Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy announced last week, however, that the facts in this case did not support the original charges filed in this matter.

“Due to the lack of corroboration and substantial inconsistencies from the facts that we have obtained from multiple sources since the filing of the original charging document, the original charges cannot be sustained, and prosecution on those charges is untenable,” McCarthy said.

But federal deportation proceedings against the two teenagers have already begun. The father of one of the boys was arrested by ICE agents a few days after the alleged incident. Additionally, no matter the outcome of the case, the teens will not be able to return to school and complete their education in a regular school building, during the regular school day, and have a typical school experience.

Are we becoming too reactive as a society? Are we living in a land of alternative facts? To what extent do non-citizens have due process rights? I have represented non-citizens for run-of-the mill personal injury matters who are afraid of filing a civil suit because they are scared of going to court due to their status. How do lawyers that do not practice immigration law advise non-citizen clients who come to us for criminal, workers compensation, or tax matters? This issue is local, national and, as I saw during my visit to Canada, one that is of international interest.

(If you are interested in learning more about the current challenges in our country’s immigration practices please come to a wonderful, free event on May 18 at the University of Baltimore School of Law. The panel of speakers includes two seasoned immigration attorneys and one of the most senior immigration law judges in the country. The event is sponsored by the MSBA Young Lawyers Section, the Bar Association of Baltimore City Young Lawyers Division, and the Maryland Association for Justice.)

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