As a citizen of the city of Baltimore, it has been a difficult week to think or read or write about anything other than the events occurring since Freddie Gray’s tragic death. The uneasy peace that has descended upon the city since Monday night’s frightful rioting, has given space for contemplation of the various and numerous ills from which this city – and much of this country – have suffered for far too long.
What is happening in Baltimore now is not just about Mr. Gray. It is not about race. It is not about the war on drugs, or bad policing. It is not about a crippled system of justice. It is not about lack of economic opportunity and the widening prosperity gap. It is not about parental accountability or the perceived lack thereof. It is not about access to adequate employment, education, or health care. It is not about a physical urban environment that literally and figuratively poisons its children. It is not about lack of political leadership or adequate social and economic policy prescriptions.
It is about all of these things. And more.
I am an immigration attorney in Baltimore. I represent individuals who came to, or want to come to this country in search of a better life for themselves and for their families. Many of my clients are seeking better jobs, better schools, or better health care than their home countries can provide. Other clients – my asylum-seekers – come to the United States out of fear – fear for their lives and the lives of their family members, fear for their freedom and their right to live peacefully, regardless of their race or nationality, their religion or political opinion, or some other immutable, defining characteristic.
For all of these reasons, my clients choose to come to the United States, and many of them come to Baltimore. For them, the United States is a beacon – of hope and of opportunity, of freedom and of justice. And as Americans, we take great pride in our own perception of our country as such. Increasingly, though, the facts on the ground belie this notion. The disconnect between the perception of America that serves as such a magnet for many of my clients and the reality of the difficulties here that far too many people, Mr. Gray included, face is undeniable. If we are to continue to be that beacon, that symbol and source of freedom and justice and opportunity, for people around the world, then we have some hard work to do.
In Baltimore now, fear and panic have given way to a renewed sense of hope. Hope that Mr. Gray did not die in vain, that the problems – all of the problems – that his case has revealed will remain in the forefront of all of our minds, and that we will continue to search for solutions. We owe that Mr. Gray. We owe that to ourselves. And we owe that to the beacon of freedom and justice and opportunity that the United States is and always ought to be.
Original post at http://asyleewomen.tumblr.com/