While I spend most of my time practicing immigration law, I have been writing songs and playing the guitar since I was 15. My influences include Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Richard (and Linda) Thompson, Mary McCaslin (and Jim Ringer), Eric Bogle, Lucy Kaplansky, Richard Shindell and Dar Williams (Cry, Cry, Cry), John Gorka, among many others.
My songs spring up when I am moved and my heart is touched; when I want to capture a feeling or emotion that I can’t express except in song; when I feel inspired to reach across a divide and try to bring other people close to me and to each other, when I want to capture a poignant or magical moment, or share a musical portrait or landscape.
Too often in my immigration work I am face-to-face with unfolding sagas of human tragedy: families separated by immigration barriers, the sometimes mindless application by immigration inspectors of unreasonable restrictions that serve no public policy purpose, unjust detentions and imprisonment of immigrants who have not committed any crimes, high school valedictorians who cannot go to the college of their choice because they were brought here as small children on visas that later expired, or were carried across the border by parents desperate to give them a better life. I am moved by these situations on a daily basis. I have devoted my life’s work to helping to make a difference to the lives of immigrants to this country.
But perhaps nothing moves me more than the stories of the immigrants who have fled unspeakable persecution, often including brutal torture and deprivation, for acts which in this country are commonplace, such as practicing one’s religion or speaking up for democracy. I am privileged to work with asylum applicants through PAIR - the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project of Boston, which matches up PAIR clients with attorneys who represent them on a pro bono basis. Oftentimes people fleeing such deadly persecution fled hurriedly, when an opportunity for escape from their persecutors happened to present itself - they had little or no time to pack and often they were forced to leave their loved ones behind, enduring incredibly painful and heart-breaking family separations. The physical pain from beatings and torture thus is all-too-often joined by an aching sense of loss and pain from being separated from the people they love, and who love them, the most. Yet they endure - they carry on - and manage to put one foot in front of the other on their quest for freedom and a safe life for themselves and their family members. I am in complete awe of these valiant asylum applicants and their inner strength and courage - my PAIR clients have shown me over and over again, the endurance, elasticity and resilience of the human heart. My heart beats with theirs. And so, I have dedicated my first CD release in their honor. In order to help PAIR continue to do its vitally important work, in these dark economic times, I am donating the proceeds of this CD to PAIR.