Peter Manda is a ’16 ELLM graduate who is currently enrolled in the Graduate Tax LLM Program at BU Law. Peter runs his own business law and tax practice: www.mandaattorney.com. He recently volunteered at the Chicago O’Hare airport in response to Trump’s Immigration Ban.
When at the end of January I heard that attorneys had gathered at O’Hare in response to the Muslim Ban and formed into what has become the #ORDlawyers group and that they needed speakers of Farsi, I volunteered and spent four shifts helping out as best I could. I processed intake from travelers’ families and travelers who had been held in extensive detention; I monitored flight arrivals; and I took photographs for the group’s social media. I also interviewed and assisted families in Farsi and Spanish. In hindsight, it doesn’t seem like I spent much time out at the airport, but I am really grateful for the support of the BU Law School community – in helping me rearrange my classes and adjust my schedule so that I could help out.
By February 10, the O’Hare lawyers group had accomplished the following (in the group’s own words):
“Here are a few of the outcomes we achieved together:
- We staffed over 800 volunteers at Terminal 5 throughout the week and received over 1,500 volunteer inquiries.
- We provided support to over 210 travelers and their family or friends.
- While the majority of people served were from Iran and Jordan, we assisted people from more than 30 different countries.
- We provided valuable on-the-ground information to immigrants’ rights organizations and lawyers litigating cases and securing national stays around the country.
- We created “know your rights” information sheets in Arabic, Farsi, Somali, Urdu, and other languages.
- In less than 24 hours, we staffed volunteers at Dilley Detention Center in South Texas until the end of March. Volunteers are now signing up through the spring. This network could fully staff the project through the summer by the end of the weekend thanks to you!”
Because I speak Farsi, many think that I am Iranian or Muslim. I speak Farsi because my Jewish father learned during the Second World War that tolerance grows from communication and that the best way to prevent another Holocaust is to stand up to hate and to injustice whenever it occurs, and regardless of the religion it affects. I am not a Muslim; I am what Trump calls “an anchor baby.” My Austrian parents waited for me to be born in New York before traveling to Iran for work because they valued what America stood for – particularly religious freedom and freedom of speech and assembly. Hitler had decided that my Austrian grandparents were not Austrian. Rather, to him and his henchmen, my grandparents’ families were either Jewish or German. Most of the Jewish part of the family died in Theresienstadt or Auschwitz. One relative was hung in the Hayderiana in Prague because, as a graphic designer, she was caught printing leaflets for The Resistance.
Under this President, it was first the Muslims that were affected, then immigrants, and now the Anti-Defamation League is reporting a huge surge in anti-Semitic hate crimes around the country. I am by training a corporate / e-discovery attorney; but I think these times require us to do a little bit more than we are normally comfortable doing.
What gives me hope is that I wasn’t the only one who took the long trip out to O’Hare, even though I was in Chicago on a temporary project and every hour not billed hit my wallet. There were lawyers from the largest firms, small firms, and solo practitioners, as well as translators and graduate students. The American dream is real, and it is worth standing up for. I’m really grateful that BU also helped to make it possible for me to make my own contribution in a small way.
~ Peter Manda