Since the conclusion of the 2016 presidential election, shifts in mindsets, culture, and government have been rapidly progressing. In order to gain some perspective and insight on what the impact of those changes are and how individuals can play a part in making positive changes, I am enlisting the help of professionals in various sects of the work force to share their experiences. I ask them all the same simple 4 questions, and each week we will publish one interview.
Our first interview is with immigration lawyer extraordinaire Emily Jones who works with Kentucky Refugee Ministries in Lexington, Kentucky.
Q: How do you see your profession or industry changing since the election?
A: It’s definitely become more difficult to be an immigration attorney because the laws are changing so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. Because they’re not actually laws, they’re executive orders that have happened, they drop suddenly and there’s no preparation and there’s nothing in place to help us cope with the changes. So I think that’s really difficult. I think the clients that I deal with are a lot more desperate and scared than they were before the election. Even clients that have legal status are terrified that they’re suddenly not going to have that status anymore, and that they’re going to have to go somewhere that they don’t want to be. So I think that’s the main thing that I would say has changed since the election. It’s going to be busy.
Q: What do you think needs to change in your profession or your industry now?
A: More people that are creative and interested in reform need to get involved in immigration and advocacy because it’s really difficult to continue the way we are, and so we need to have more people willing to kind of push the envelope and push for different legislation so that we get the necessary reforms that we need in immigration law.
Q: How do you feel that you can change your professional environment?
A: So, I’m trying to figure that out right now because it’s been really intense and it’s really hard to do this every day. So, some things that I’ve been doing is that I’ve been trying to make my work space itself as calming as possible. Keep the lights low, move papers off of my desk to feel like it’s more open. To try to take deep breaths between each client so that I can be refreshed and new for each person, so that I don’t carry the weight of each appointment into the next appointment. As far as in the profession, I’m trying to be as active and engaged in what’s going on as possible. So I’m meeting regularly with the folks in our Louisville office so that we’re better tied together. We’re in constant contact with the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic so that we’re all aware of what’s going on and what’s changing, and what we’re hearing, and what we’re seeing. We’re trying to stay plugged into the community to try to address concerns as they arise and try to correct any misinformation, because I think that’s another problem that we’re seeing in immigration is that there is a lot of fear. And when that happens people spread rumors and they believe the wrong thing and so to try to help educate people about what’s true and what’s not true. I think that’s all I’ve been doing.
Q: What do you wish other people would do that you think would help change your professional environment?
A: I wish that the people that were elected and the people that elect them would think about every one as a human being, and not as some other, some stranger, something to be feared. If you think about people as actual people, it’s really hard to want to keep families apart, to want kids to be taken out of schools, to have people spend years in detention. I also think we need to improve our foreign policy. If we’re ever going to get anywhere with immigration we have to help countries figure out what’s causing refugee flows and what’s causing immigration flows and then be as supportive as we can of empowering those countries and those people in those countries so that they can stay where they are. Because most people don’t want to become refugees. Most people never intended on having to immigrate to the United States, but when they get here, to find out that the US doesn’t care anymore and doesn’t want them anymore is not helpful either.
Big thank you to Emily for sharing her insight and for all of her hard work! If anyone would like to volunteer with, donate to, or learn more about KRM, please visit their website by clicking on this link: https://kyrm.org/