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  • The Gift of Understanding

    During my almost seventeen years as a United States Immigration Judge (IJ) in Los Angeles, I often felt as if my colleagues and I were still smarting from the curse incurred by the hubris of our common ancestors (who apparently became among the first reported refugees). We were fellow judges and friends; we shared our lunches and reveled in our bull sessions caffeinated by twice-cooked coffee only a litigation-addict could love. Indeed, among the more than 200 IJs in courts across the United States, I counted many men and women whom I had known, respected, and liked from our days as lawyers to our time on the bench. Notwithstanding my close relations with my fellow judges, or perhaps precisely because of them, I was constantly confounded and confused by our conversations on the subject of asylum law. I was even more lost for words (no small matter, given my nature) by the manner in which many of my colleagues approached asylum applicants and adjudicated their cases. In fairness, I note that my colleagues were just as unable to understand much of what I did in my courtroom in my own proceedings.