In the two weeks since President Donald Trump issued his executive order restricting travel to the United States, our country has been confronted with many challenging questions. Countless legal minds have wondered, “Is this politics as usual or something altogether different?” There are no easy answers. In the legal and constitutional chaos that have resulted, however, firm partner Cindy Grossman has found an edifying opportunity to affirm her identity and pride as a lawyer. We asked her a few questions about her pro bono assistance at Newark Liberty International Airport, and what it all means to her.
GSRJ: How did you first get involved?
CLG: My experience with what is now (mostly humorously) known as the Law Firm of the Resistance started the Sunday morning after the order was signed. Despite my lack of direct experience in immigration law, I can research and write, and with some guidance, I can understand enough of a new area of law to be helpful to the experts. So, after perusing the Facebook page of “Lawyers for Good Government” and seeing the massive network of like-minded individuals who sprang up overnight to defend our Constitution, I decided I would sign up to volunteer. I’m so glad I did.
GSRJ: What has the experience been like?
CLG: Well, things have been a little quieter at Newark than at some of the larger airports throughout the country. We haven’t necessarily been dramatically running to the courthouse to file habeas corpus petitions. Instead, we mostly stay abreast of any developments with the various legal challenges across the country and others’ practical experiences with Customs and Border Protection, and then monitor incoming flights for affected travelers to help prepare them for what they may experience when passing through immigration, and to offer any advice that we can. Many of those travelers are simply comforted to know that we are tracking their arrival, and that we’re right on the other side of immigration should they need us.
A broader part of the work has been through email and Twitter. Lawyers of all stripes, throughout the country, have been using the internet to stay in touch, to offer expertise in drafting documents, to deal with law enforcement groups, and to provide each other with words of encouragement. Essentially, thousands of lawyers throughout the nation coalesced seemingly out of nowhere to do what they do best: turn a chaotic situation into an orderly one.
GSRJ: How has it impacted you personally?
CLG: I have never been so proud to be a lawyer. To see so many selflessly offer all that they know, as well as their time, in the name of advocacy for those who do not have a voice has been a humbling and inspiring experience. It’s been an educational one, too; after watching a group of at-the-ready-lawyers join forces band together to uphold their view of the Constitution, our laws, and our government, I recalled the point Shakespeare was making when he had Dick the Butcher proclaim “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” in Henry IV! We can truly be a force to be reckoned with.
On a more personal note, too, the incredible diversity of those battling on the front lines alongside me made an impression. Sitting at our makeshift clinic table by Green Beans Coffee in Terminal B, I was struck by the cross-section of America that I shared the table with. Of our two Arabic interpreters, one was a first generation American whose parents came to this country from Qatar. The other was a young white man from an elite northeastern college. Our attorneys included a married couple, Punjabi by ancestry, who had grown up in Iraq and still have parents living there, a Latina immigration lawyer who worked in Biglaw, and a woman who had dusted off her law degree to come out of retirement and help. We also had a female Egyptian lawyer who works with refugees, a young female lawyer who works in the Newark public defender’s office, and me – a Jewish tax lawyer recently transplanted from Austin, Texas.
It is necessary to have all those voices at the table to formulate our responses. As cliché as it might sound, our diversity truly is our strength. I will absolutely cherish this experience; it has been exciting and consistently impressive to witness so many attorneys roused from their corporate slumber to answer the primal call of our profession and defend our system of laws. I hope that many of us will continue this hard, important work as we return to our normal practices, and take to heart the lesson of our role in American society. I know that I will.