St. John’s Baptist Church

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Journey to Understanding: Stories of Immigrant Children and Families, Part 3

The video below is Part 3 in a series of 3 videos presented by the Immigrant Support Study Group of St. John’s Baptist Church. In this video, we hear from Benjamin Snyder, local immigration attorney. He is interviewed by Anna Cushman. Following the video is an article by Anna titled, “Illuminating the Wall: The Immigration Attorney’s Role”

Each video in this series leads up to the Immigrant Support Study Group’s event, Journey to Understanding: Stories of Immigrant Children and Families, that will be held in Broach Hall at St. John’s at a date and time to be determined. At the event, all are invited to come and join for a dialogue in the round where an advocate for immigrant families (Sil Ganzó), DACA recipient (Jessica Contreras), and a local immigration attorney (Benjamin Snyder) will share experiences and insight about the hardships, obstacles, and triumphs of immigrant children and families.



Illuminating the Wall: The Immigration Attorney’s Role

by Anna Cushman, August 10, 2020


“For an immigration lawyer, Immigration is the enemy and Immigration is the benefactor – and which one it is going to be on any given day often seems to be a matter of whimsy.” – Calvin Trillin


Over 30 years ago journalist Calvin Trillin wrote a profile in The New Yorker of the legendary Houston immigration lawyer, Sam Williamson. His piece was recently circulated among the Carolinas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, of which I am a member.  The above observation struck me because, though immigration law has changed in many ways since the early 1980s, the sudden and unaccountable changes in mood and behavior of “Immigration” endure.


Given the complex and dynamic nature of our US immigration system, it is important that immigration attorneys participate in the dialogue about the immigrant experience of children and families. With this in mind, Benjamin Snyder, a Charlotte immigration attorney, will participate in the “Journey to Understanding” dialogue along with Sil Ganzo and Jessica Contreras. Mr. Snyder has represented all types of immigrants during his career, and can help to provide the legal context we all need to understand the barriers children and families face in order to immigrate to the United States.


An immigration attorney can also illuminate where the quicksand of ignorance lies. She can caution you against wrong turns down dead-end roads, though xenophobia and nationalism would lead you there. She can do so by explaining the system and sharing real stories of how immigrants strengthen our country.


Truly, catchy phrases like “they should just do it the right way” and “they should just get in line” signal that the speaker is already knee deep in the quicksand and needs help. This person may be shocked to learn that there is no egalitarian line. For example, certain Canadian, Australian, Chilean, Cuban, and Singaporean immigrants get special treatment while certain Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigrants get especially poor treatment under our current system. We know nationality to be an accident of birth or blood, and yet it is a key determinant of whether and how someone might immigrate to the U.S. Bottom line, learning about our system helps to create greater understanding among people and highlight needed reforms.


Further, Mr. Snyder can help us identify the winds of change. Under the Trump Administration we have experienced many major restrictive policy changes. We can look at the various Executive Orders, the new regulations, or even the innocuous-seeming changes that pose very real barriers. For example, US Citizenship and Immigration Services is now rejecting asylum applications (among others) that do not have “Not Applicable” or “N/A” in every single blank box. Curiously, the types of applications receiving this draconian treatment are those filed by the least sophisticated and poorest of immigrants. Similarly, the wall grows much taller on October 2, 2020 when the cost to apply for US citizenship will increase from $640 to $1170! As you can see, there is more than one way to build a wall. In fact, we are seeing how it is more effective to use bureaucracy and fear to deter, delay and deny immigrants than a physical partition on our southwest border.


We look forward to Mr. Snyder helping us to understand the recent policy changes, evaluate our current system, and hear the stories of his varied clients. On behalf of the Immigrant Support Study Group, we hope you will join us for the Journey to Understanding dialogue event. The date will be announced as soon as we can safely gather again. Peace be with you.