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Proud to become a lawyer; proud to be a Marylander, and an American

eleanor-chung-generation-jdWhen I told acquaintances I was headed to law school, a fair percentage responded with a joke about how there are already enough lawyers. The insult to the profession never bothered me because it’s as old as time, and it’s wrong. Complaints about the number of lawyers abounded back when Lincoln was reading the law. (See Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals). Lawyers are needed more than ever.

By now everyone has read about the separation of children from their parents at the border. While studying the bar, in this dark time, it can be hard to feel optimism for America’s future. But I do feel optimism, because the United States is a nation of lawyers.

Lawyers fiercely guard the presumption of innocence. Lawyers are zealous advocates. Lawyers exercise independent professional judgment, considering moral, economic, and social factors. I am proud to enter the ranks of this honorable profession and to stand on the shoulders of giants — once I manage to pass the bar. Thank you for the advice, Chaz R. Ball!)

I am proud to be a Marylander. My sons are four and two. I see their faces in the children at the border. Would my four-year-old remember my name? Governor Larry Hogan’s withdrawal of the Maryland National Guard honors Maryland’s children and the children at the border.

I am proud to be an American. I am proud that a fundraiser for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), intending to raise $1,500, has raised $15 million (as of this morning). I am proud that in the United States, in the words of Michelle Obama, truth can transcend party. Having lived abroad for a number of years, and having experienced countries and cultures that refuse to reckon with the past, I am proud that the United States is capable of confronting wrongdoing.

This is not the first time that a United States policy has intentionally separated children from their families. The forced separation of Native American children from their families caused a pain that reverberates through generations. And of course, before that, slavery. One is hard-pressed to find an aspect of American life unaffected by slavery and its legacy.  And as you know, Lincoln, who became a lawyer despite there being too many of us, ended the practice of enslaving Americans.

I believe in the United States’ power and ability to reckon with and correct wrongdoing. I believe in the United States’ power to ameliorate harm. I also believe that even when the policy is stopped, the harm is continuous, it lasts generations, and it affects every aspect of American life. As lawyers, we will be there, to do what we can.

New lawyers: RAICES is hiring. Established and non-immigration lawyers: let’s write a check. The viral RAICES fundraiser is available on Facebook. The Texas Civil Rights Project is helping to reunite five families and takes donations. Business Insider has also compiled a great list of organizations that take donations. Immigration lawyers: We’d love to hear your input on how best to reunite families!

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