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American Immigration Lawyers Association
Annual Conference
June 10-13, 1999
 
Good Evening, all you youngsters:
 
I have been looking forward to talking with you lawyers and interns because some of my best friends are lawyers.
I just wouldn't want my sister to marry one of them.
 
The title of this presentation is to try to explain "how we did it," or in other words how we kept out of the slammer.
 
However, I did spend a few hours as an unwilling guest of uncle Sam in the Immigration detention building. Two women were ahead of me. The first thing they asked me was "What are you in here for."
 
I said: "I have been accused of trying to overthrow the government by force and violence." I thought they would laugh at this. Instead they said "The damned government ought to be overthrown." That made my day.
 
My bail was set for $500. Now, as I understand it, bail is set to keep the bailee from leaving the country. And since that is what the INS wanted me to do, there is a certain contradiction involved.
 
Think about that when you get home tonight.
 
I have been looking forward to speaking to you so I could tell you a little story about Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Some friends were worried about my case and wrote him that it was on its way to the Supreme Court. They were worried and wrote him all the details. He replied with a postcard which read "Tell Mrs. W. not to worry." I naturally followed his advice.
 
That has to be the shortest Supreme Court decision ever handed down.
 
I need to give a little personal history here. My first job was in a law office after graduation from the 8th grade and a six months course in a business college. This was in Canada where I was born.
 
One did not have a PhD to work in a law office in those days. One only needed be able to type and be an expert in shorthand, which, as you know, is now a lost art.
 
I received $25.00 a month, $15 of which I paid my mother for board; a $5.00 monthly payment on a bicycle. The rest went for candy no doubt. I didn't have to worry about clothes since I already had a bathing suit. It had a high neck, long sleeves, a little skirt and bathing slippers. Very modest and very depressing.
 
If anyone had asked me what was the greatest change I witnessed in my 100 years I would definitely say: swimsuits.
 
My unfortunate first employer dictated on my first day on the job as follows: "The defendant herein denies each and every allegation contained in paragraph I of the plaintiffs complaint." Don't you love it? It was Greek to me.
 
Had the ALIA known that I had been a legal secretary since 1913 I am sure ALIA would not have been so reckless as to invite a legal secretary of such solid credentials to address a captive audience and particularly a retired secretary, who could not be fired.
 
Let me insert at this point, something you probably don't know: that behind every successful lawyer there stands an utterly astonished secretary.
 
Now, I am not talking about pro bono attorneys who do considerable work. These lawyers are special a breed apart.
 
It was during the hysteria of the McCarthy period in the 50s that I had a runin with the law. I was arrested because of earlier membership in the Communist Party and held for deportation to Canada.
 
As you know deportation proceedings are held under civil, not criminal laws.
 
The INS thought nothing of trying to deport me, who was foreign born for membership in the Communist Party thirteen years before my arrest when membership was not a deportable offense. I can only charitably assume that the illiterate INS didn't know what the phrase ex post facto meant
 
I have good reasons to believe that were it not for pro bono lawyers I would not be here today but would have spent the last forty years in exile in England, although I was born only 80 miles from Seattle.
 
We had friends in the Canadian parliament who we persuaded to ask their government not to accept me.
 
So, after ten years of trying, the United States was back to square one.
 
Next, they tried to exile me to England where I would spend the rest of my life. Behind every deportation lies such a tragedy.
 
Shakespeare's Romeo poignantly described exile. He said: "be merciful, say 'death' do not say banishment." I agree with Romeo. It would be a bad trip.
 
Of course, I had no connection in England. But the INS made the mistake of lying to the British government, claiming I had no ties in the United States, had one daughter from whom I was estranged; in fact, I didn't even know where she was.
 
Eventually, by a question in the English parliament by a member to whom my lawyers had given the facts, England, too, refused to accept me. Spared once again from exile, this time we finally got some relief from the US courts: the Ninth Circuit sent me back to the administrative level.
 
This time the INS finally stopped their efforts to deport me. They had had enough of the Wolf case.
 
The some 400 political deportations initiated by the INS were but a prelude to the McCarthy cold war persecutions of the 50s that deeply penetrated into every niche in our society: lawyers, the courts, the churches, labor unions, seamen, grass roots organizations such as senior citizens, the arts through attacking Paul Robeson and refusing to allow him to leave the country and refusing to allow English born Charlie Chaplin and the artist Pablo Picasso, to come in.
 
Most of the deportees, however, were poor people but due to the work of pro bono lawyers only two were deported: Hamish McKay, expelled from his Carpenter union in the USA because of his alleged Communism, was unable to find work there. However, Canada did not share the Communist hysteria that prevailed in the United States. Hamish was fully employed in Vancouver, B.C. through his membership in the Canadian Carpenters' union where he and his family lived in comfort. Later he was granted visitors' rights.
 
William Mackey was sent to Finland and after a few years when the hue and cry of McCarthism died down, he was returned by Congressional action
 
My attorneys were John Caughlan, assisted by C.T. Hatten. They worried my case for fifteen years through innumerable administrative hearings and to the US Supreme twice on certiorari.
 
Along the route before the higher courts, local lawyers in the area usually acted on our behalf. John Caughlan assisted Barry Hatten, did the major work for all of the 14 deportees in Washington State.
 
I happened to be his secretary for the last 20 years of my gainful employment. We always argued over whether I worked for him or he worked for me.
 
There was substantial help for the deportees by a grass roots organization known as the Washington Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born. We raised funds to pay the attorneys' outofpocket expenses and a very small percentage of their services. Also we carried on an educational campaign, which was very effective.
 
As you know John Caughlan has died recently. We miss him very, very much. He was a fearless advocate for the civil rights of the foreign born.
 
I am grieved to report that Marion Kinney, chairman of the Committee, died just a few days ago. That leaves Barry Hatten and me the sole survivors of these grievious times.
 
In summation: we lost most of the battles but we won the war in all of them.
 
After some 24 years of turmoil, I finally became a citizen in 1974 at which time I forswore allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.
 
Celebrating at the local pub I proposed the following toast: "To hell with Queen Elizabeth and to hell to Richard Nixon, too."
 
There is a thin line between the people who suffer from civil rights abuse and the people of low income. Rich people seldom suffer civil rights abuse.
 
Had it not been for pro bono lawyers I would not be here today, but would be in England where I would spend the rest of my life thousand of miles from my only child, my grandchildren and notyetborn great grandchildren; from all my relatives and friends, completely uprooted from my home in this country where I have lived for almost eighty years.