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Lawyer

Parvandeh maa chi shod?
I love being a lawyer and helping Iranians, no matter how annoying. But...

August 24, 2003
The Iranian

Working in a law office is hectic, daunting, exhausting, and downright dangerous.

Working in a law office catering to an exclusively Iranian clientele makes the above look like an idyllic gondola ride on a sunny day in Venice, guided by a Michelangelo's David look-alike singing O Sole Mio in a voice that would make Andrea Bocelli cry of envy.

The first group that comes to mind is the "Antibiotics". These are people who, much like antibiotics, you have to take every hour or so. They'll call asking, "Khob khaanom, parvandeye maa chi shod?" (Well, what's happened to our case?)

No matter how many times you strain to explain to them that nothing could possibly change in the status of their case between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., they just don't take you seriously and continue with their hourly inquiries.

They thinnk their file is sitting somewhere gathering dust in an antiquated drawer, and only their perseverance will somehow force the lazy no-good bum on the other end of the line (that would be me!) to meet her duty. Often, they don't realize this type of nuisance creates just the opposite feeling.

Then, there are the "Conspiracy Theorists". This particular group believes we attorneys somehow have a private wink wink, nudge nudge, deep throat type of secret informant within the INS that we can reach through a red telephone line to "speed along" or "approve" various
applications. It's just impossible to make them believe we don't have an INS officer on the payroll, no matter how hard we protest.

Often, they use the antibiotic method described to plead with us again and again: "Peleeze khaanoom... Can yu tell aay-enn-ess vee need deess verk permeet very very fast?"

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo... I don't know how many times I have explained we have no discretion over processing time of governmental agencies. They just look at us with their contrite eyes and a "You could help us if you really wanted to" expression.

Another group is the "Man az yeki az doostaam shenidam..." (I heard a friend saying...) These are the people who have a bit more initiative. Much like a suspicious patient who seeks a second medical opinion, these people can usually be found in local Iranian coffee shops, baghaalis, auto dealerships and the like, complaining out loud about their legal
conundrum until finally they find a willing audience for their sob story.

Then they come back triumphantly with the news that "Man az yeki az doostaam shenidam ke pessare baraadare ammeye baghaale sare kuchashoon vaghti apply kardeh bood baraaye green card, kheeeeeeyyyyyylllliiii kamtar tool keshid... cheraa parvandeye man engahd toolaaniye khanoom?" (Just imagine the translation)

You try patiently to explain that every case has different facts, and different laws. But it's a lost cause. They just shake their head and look at you with that same incredulous puppy-dog look.

Some clients are so unique they're worth discussing on their own.

Once a woman called in total panic asking us to cancel the visa for her fiance from Iran because she had just found out he had given her a sexually-transmitted disease on her last visit there.

And there was the man who wanted to know if he reports his wife to the INS as a
fraudulent immigration-only wife, would he could go to jail, too?

One young man had been detained in an INS jail for god knows how many months. He asked whether he has a better chance at getting US asylum if he becomes a homosexual?

So, after all this, why do I stay at my job?

Well, believe it or not, all being said, I love what I do. It's that David and Goliath mentality in me. I know it's naive, stupid, infantile etc. I guess it's just the price I pay for my bleeding heart liberal beliefs :o)

The thing is, I believe most of these people deserve a chance at a better life. I can't sit with my hands under my butt while women who have been beaten, insulted and imprisoned for an "incorrect" wearing of the hejab are deported back into the arms of their persecutors. I like seeing families reunited. Or doing pro bono work for a couple defrauded out of their hard-earned money by an unscrupulous con artist posing as an attorney. Call me crazy! I like to help people!

More often than not, my clients have just arrived from Iran, or even if they have lived here for many years, they just can't shake the homegrown belief that the LAW and the GOVERNMENT are a mysterious, untrustworthy maze, full of corruption and injustice.

Guess what? They're not that far off!

Under the current Ashcroft regime, which has turned the INS into a bunch of John Wayne wannabes who indiscriminately reject perfectly valid applications solely on the basis that they feel like they are the guardians at the gates, protecting America from a "Middle-Eastern threat".

So I have more than sympathy and understanding when they ask me to hold their hands and guide them through these murky waters. It's just that sometimes... phewwww... well some days I get more testy than others. And it feels good to rant once in a while.

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