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Joe Biden campaigned on massive immigration reform. Here's what he's inherited, what he's already changed... and what he still hasn't.

Show Notes

Susan J Cohen is an American immigration lawyer who has seen the last few decades of US immigration policy. She talks about the situation Joe Biden has inherited, after Donald Trump changed more than 400 immigration laws, rules and processes; why a record number of arrests has been made at the US Southern border; what is happening in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala or Haiti that is making people move north; and what the impact of the Trump presidency has been on immigrants, lawyers and activists. 

Cohen is the founding partner of the immigration law practice at Boston firm Mintz, an author and a songwriter. In 2017 she was part of a small band of legal minds who fought the so-called "Muslim ban" in court and won a short-lived victory.

📚 Journeys from There to Here: Stories of Immigrant Trials, Triumphs and Contributions. Susan J Cohen, with Steven Taylor. River Grove Books, 2021. Buy it here. (This affiliate link supports Borderline.)
🎶 Beyond the Borders and Looking for the Angels, written by Susan Cohen and performed by students and alumni of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachussetts. 

Show notes
[00:00:16] Intro
[00:01:32] The immigration situation Joe Biden inherited
[00:05:21] Title 42 and Remain in Mexico: How the US keeps lawful asylum-seekers at bay
[00:08:49] What it's like to wait at the US Southern border
[00:12:43] A historical record for arrests at the Southern border
[00:15:13] What's happening in Central America and Haiti to push people north
[00:18:42] The massive problems we'd need to solve to stem migration flows
[00:22:27] Patterns of discrimination and aggression at the border
[00:26:58] How the American public feels about immigration
[00:29:46] Changing the perception of immigrants

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What is Borderline?

Borderline is a podcast for defiant global citizens covering geopolitics, immigration and lives that straddle borders, with host Isabelle Roughol.

Susan Cohen: We can only counter these
broad brush, negative stereotypes

by telling individual stories of
human beings, what they've gone

through, what they had to overcome
just to get here, which shows,

you know, what they're made of.

Isabelle Roughol: Hi, I'm Isabelle
Roughol and this is Borderline.

If you don't live in the U S, you might've
not heard about it for a little while.

There were years when that's all we
could hear, but things got pretty quiet

since a certain president left office.

We're nearly two years, believe it or
not, into the Biden administration.

And one of the big things that Joe Biden
campaigned on was immigration reform.

So how much has changed for immigrants
in or immigrants to the United States?

Today, I'm speaking with someone
who has seen the last few decades

of US immigration in action.

Susan Cohen is one of the country's
top immigration lawyers recognized

by more words than I can cite here.

She's also consulted with the
US government agencies on some

of their immigration policy.

She is the founding chair of the
immigration law practice at the law

firm Mintz, an author of "Journeys
from There to Here" in which she

talks about a few of her clients and
their own path to the United States.

And she is, I learned just before
interviewing her, a songwriter as well.

So the music you're hearing on
the podcast today is hers, and

aptly it is immigration-themed.

Susan Cohen: Thank you for having me.

Isabelle Roughol: That's a lot of, uh,
that's a lot of skills in one woman.

I'm impressed.

Let's start with the
news, and the politics.

Um, so I'm here based in Europe.

We hear a lot about immigration
obviously and refugees at the moment,

but I was really curious to, um, take
a look across the Atlantic as well.

We're, hard to believe, almost two years
into the Biden presidency uh, and he had

campaigned on, on pretty major immigration
reform and overhauling that system.

So now nearly two years into it, is
he making good on those promises?

Susan Cohen: Well, the, the answer to that
question is, is the complicated answer.

I think he's, he's certainly has
very good intentions with respect to

reforming immigration and making it
more humane in the United States and

changing a lot of the very restrictive
uh, policies and practices that were put

into place by the Trump administration.

So he's coming on the heels of
it incredibly xenophobic and

restrictive immigration program, uh,
that was carried out relentlessly

by the Trump administration.

And the Trump administration changed
about 400 different policies, regulations,

and infrastructure-related issues
regarding the immigration courts, the

processing of immigration cases, the
lack of discretion that previously had

been granted to adjudicators with them,
the agencies inside us citizenship

and immigration services, inside the
courts, the immigration judges...

So President Biden, I know, did
campaign on an immigration reform

platform and I think he really meant it.

And he is just facing the reality that
it's a really enormous problem to tackle,

to try to make all of these changes
and reforms to system where things

are so deeply embedded, within the
agency and within the mindset of some

of the officers and people that work
within the different agencies inside

the Department of Homeland security.

I think his intentions are very good.

He has started to make some good
changes, for example up until a

few days to go; we didn't have any
more travel bans relating to COVID.

We were all very happy that the travel
bans had finally come to come to a stop.

And then he, as you ensure, saw just
instituted a new, a new travel ban

with respect to this new variant of
the virus that impacts a number of

countries in Africa, in Southern Africa.

I am of the opinion that the
travel bans are an inappropriate

mechanism to try to contain the
virus inside the United States.

I think testing and proof of vaccination
should be more than sufficient to

make a determination about whether
someone could come into the US or not.

I think it's partially a political
tool and it looks good, I think, across

the base to the other side of the
aisle to institute these travel ban.

So that's just one thing that, you know,
he, he has tried to resend a number of

asylum related practices that were really
repressive and that made a mockery of

ideas of due process and justice in the
immigration context for asylum seekers

and those seeking to make the case why
they should be allowed into the country.

But he continued, he has continued, um,
you know, some of the really awful and

I would argue unlawful practices that
the Trump administration carried out,

particularly at the Southern border by
utilizing our public health law, which

is called Title 42 of the US code, which
they, I believe, really manipulated to

use it as a weapon to prevent immigrants
was crossing into the country from the

Mexican border, into the United States
and they interpreted it, I think, and many

courts, I believe the same, incorrectly
to say that they believe the law gives

US government the right to repel or
expel migrants at the Southern border.

The law doesn't actually say that.

Um, it's an interpretation.

That's a bit of a stretch.

So that issue is in the courts.

And, we could talk for hours about
all of the restrictions that the Trump

immigration folks put into place,
but you know, one of the most shameful

things, I think, that happened was that
for all the people who were fleeing

and seeking many cases as asylum at the
US border, they instituted this Remain

in Mexico program, which had never
existed before, to prevent people from

being admitted into the US even just to
make the case or to make the argument

whether or not they had a credible fear
of persecution in their home country.

And it had never happened before in
the history of immigration, the United

States, that asylum seekers, those who.

There, you know, kind of a well-founded
fear of persecution, wouldn't even

be allowed to explain the facts of
their own situation and why at least

the government should hear them out
and make a determination, make a

determination about whether they had,
or didn't have a credible fear, uh,

or a reasonable fear of persecution.

Certainly not just a right under
immigration law in United States,

but it's under international law.

We signed onto the protocols, you know,
um, the UN to respect the obligations

of those treaties and those agreements
that we've entered, entered into that

they get black and white clear that if
someone is fleeing persecution and claims

a well founded fear, that the person has
the right to request asylum, regardless

of whether they cross the border
legally or not cross the border legally.

They have the right to request asylum.

Whether the government agrees with
them or not as a totally different

issue, but as a matter of process
and justice and fairness, they

should have their, their cases heard.

But under the Trump administration, what
they did was they basically, they sent

everybody back and wouldn't let anyone in.

People are coming up
through central America.

Some of them are coming from other
countries, Cuba, Haiti, South America,

sometimes from Europe, we've had clients
from Turkey and other countries and

make the trip and find a way to get to
Mexico and then try to come up through

the border because they couldn't get
in to the United States any other way

and they were fleeing persecution.

So for years, people have been waiting
on the other side of the border.

These are families in many
cases with very young children.

It's extremely dangerous down there.

They don't have any
good shelter situations.

You know, many of the shelters that would
provide beds filled up very quickly.

You know, there are a lot of good
shelters that are run by religious

organizations and other groups
at the near the border towns, but

there aren't enough beds for people.

And so, you know, many of these families
have been just trying to camp out and

find a place that's not too unsafe to
spend the night, trying to get food.

They just have that set up a
system that required the immigrant

themselves to sort of monitor their
status about when they would maybe

get a hearing in the United States.

And what ended up happening was that
because people had to move around

and still do have to move around
so much, they have no security,

they have no roof over their heads.

They don't have a computer.

Um, they're being preyed upon, you
know, constantly by you know, a lot of

bad elements that hang out down there.

Many times people wouldn't get any
kind of email or message from the US

citizenship and immigration service or
ice that they might have a chance even

to cross the border, to have a hearing.

So huge percentage of people
missed their hearings.

And then I think that it was intentional
and what during the Trump years actually

to, um, cause as much discomfort and
pain, frankly, to people that they

would, you know, discourage them
from coming and then they missed

their, they missed their hearings.

You know, then , they would get actually
deported in absentia, but they'd never

even gotten to the United States, you
know, so they have to record against them.

So there's a lot of that actually.

Um, so Biden inherited all of that and
that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The kinds of things that he inherited,
walked into is a very big problem to try

solve, how to manage the Southern border,
but it could be much more humanly done.

And I don't think they should use title 42
to expel people on public health grounds.

They could test them, they could
quarantine them and they could put

them up, um, and, and have them
enter the country and have hearings.

And if they don't win, then
they, they have to leave.

But, um, it's, you know, it needs
to be done in a much more humane

fashion because what people have
suffered down there is atrocious.

You know, many people have suffered
in ways we can barely imagine.

Isabelle Roughol: We have, um, similar
strategies, if you can call them that,

here in the UK, where, uh, um, there's
what they call the hostile environment,

which is a strategy they, they stole
from counter-terrorism actually, which

is to make life so difficult on, uh,
on migrants, even if they're completely

legal and do things by the rules,
but to make it so unbearable that

people will give up, and walk away...

which by the way, does not work.

It just makes them undocumented.

They don't actually walk away because
there's nowhere else for them to go to.

So, um, and, and similarly, you know, not
letting people arrive in the country to,

to claim asylum as they're entitled to.

Unfortunately, it's, uh, Those
strategies are being implemented.

I think, um, all over
the rich world, it seems.

Susan Cohen: That seems to be a growing
very negative trend, unfortunately.

And you know, the numbers of people in
the world that will need protection are

going to just keep growing due to so
many factors, right, that we know about

like climate change and increasingly
repressive regimes and food insecurity,

like you said, so we have to figure out
a way to do it better, don't you think?

Isabelle Roughol: Yeah.

So, so within that context, we heard
recently it was reported that Us

authorities had made,, I think it
was 1.7 million arrests for border

crossings in the fiscal year 2021,
that it was a, uh, a historical record.

So what's happening there.

Is it genuinely an increase in
a number of people who want to

seek refuge in the United States?

Is it just those policies that
mean we keep arresting the same

people over and over again?

W what's happening?

Susan Cohen: Yeah.

Some like, I think some significant
percentage are repeat, uh, crossers

or attempting crossers, then I
don't know what percentage exactly.

But I think that also speaks to the
issue you just said, which is, you

know, the fact that where people
came from life became intolerable

and they have no other option.

So they're going to keep trying.

The numbers, I think
are particularly high.

Um, this, this year, perhaps because
people haven't all gotten the message,

the Biden administration has tried to
send to beg people, to try to, to make

things work in their home countries.

And then they're not going
to be letting everyone in.

I think that there was an anticipation
when he was running and after he got

elected among a lot of the populations
that the doors would just open, which

of course is not, is not correct, but
the messages don't always get through.

There are so many institutional problems
in many of the countries that the people

are, are migrating from that I think
the numbers will continue to be high.

Um, they'll probably go up
and down like they always do.

They might not always be
as high as they are now.

At certain times of year, it goes down
based on weather patterns and things,

but I don't think it's going to stop.

But it, the prior administration
made it, they kept calling it a

border crisis, a migration crisis.

The numbers are not really astronomical
and we could deal with them.

It's really messaging that makes
it sound much worse than it is.

And what the Trump administration did
was they just threw everybody in jail.

And so, you know, the
prisons were filling up.

They're building more prisons to hold
immigrants who are being detained

pending immigration hearings.

But what the Trump administration
also did, which President Biden wants

to counteract, and he has kind of
tasked Kamala Harris to do it, is to

reinvest in infrastructure building
and some of the countries that the

people are fleeing from, for example,
the Northern triangle countries.

So El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras
so that the country's infrastructure

improves to a point where, you
know, at least it becomes more

tolerable and safer to live there.

But there's a lot of food insecurity and
there's a lot, there's a lot of violence.

See what happens now in on-duty.

Looks like the first woman just may, may
well be the next person, a woman president

and she's campaigned on a reform platform.

So maybe she'll be able to make
some changes in on voters data.

But those three countries are really,
um, mired in corruption and lawlessness.

you know, there's just no way
for, you know, for a large

percentage of the population to
live, uh, without being at risk.

Um, and then you also had the Haitians,
um, you know, a lot of Haitians tried

to come into the US a few months
ago was an anomaly that so many were

massing at the border at the same time.

Um, but that's another group
that, you know, is also not going

to stop trying to come because.

Life is so difficult right now in Haiti,
you know, and a lot of the Haitians that

had been seeking to enter the United
States came directly from Haiti, but

a lot of them also had who had moved
over the last, you know, 10 years or

so out of Haiti and south America.

Many of them were working and
Chile and in Brazil as laborers.

Um, and they had found a pretty good
life in those countries and they were

given work permits and things like that.

But then when the pandemic hit,
a lot of those jobs dried up.

A lot of them were in service industry
and construction, and a lot of the work

just disappeared and they lost their visa.

Since a lot of them actually walked
all the way north from those countries,

with their families, many of them
with young children and babies.

And then that was a certain percentage
of the ones that were trying to

enter in October where people that
had actually been living outside

of Haiti for a long period of time.

I think the Haitians were also really
motivated to come because they had

heard that president Biden wanted
to re-institute temporary protected

status, which is a special status
to protect your, your immigration

status for a period of time in the
United States when there's something

happening in your home country that
makes it unsafe for you to return there.

And you know how these, these
chains of information and

communication, uh, flows sometimes
it's like playing telephone, right?

If people don't really get the most
important details, they just hear

that there's a program for Haitians,
but they don't, they don't know that

the program is only for Haitians
who are already in the United States

when the program was announced.

So that also spurs a lot of people
to come, but under incorrect

assumptions about whether they would
be granted permission to enter or not.

Isabelle Roughol: So we
heard Kamala Harris, right?

And in Guatemala saying, do
not come, you know, trying to

dissuade people to make the trip.

And it's certainly laudable
to want to improve conditions

in the countries of origin.

It just feels like it's something
we've had for a while now.

And it's a project that is years,
decades in the making and, and

involves, you know, transforming global
capitalism and slowing climate change.

And I mean, it's a lot of big things
too, to really have an impact on

these, on these flows of, of humanity.

Susan Cohen: It's an enormous
problem and it seems daunting and

it feels like it's too difficult
to solve, but we have to try.

I saw recently a very interesting
idea about a new way to think about

helping solve that problem, which is
in a paper I just read on the website

of the Migration Policy Institute.

The idea was to enlist all of the
compatriots who are here in the US who

have regularized their immigration status,
who are still sending their remissions,

you know, and payments to their families
back home in Guatemala,Honduras...

the, the remittances are enormous.

The amount of money that people who
have managed to succeed within the

valid, legal immigration status in the
U S, the amounts that they send back

to their families monthly, you know,
it is an enormous amount of money.

Um, and the idea was that maybe
some of them could be, you know,

encouraged in some kind of organized
fashion to help with the nation

building aspect of building
infrastructure in those countries.

It's a very interesting idea, I think.

Isabelle Roughol: Something I've
been, I've been thinking about a lot

actually, is how we can imagine an
immigration system that is, I don't

know, maybe I'm naive, but is cooperative
instead of being confrontational.

And where there are ways to encourage
return and to encourage transfer of

skills and technology and investment to
the Global South as well thanks to, you

know, people who come work for a number
of years maybe in richer countries, but

then have a desire to come back, which
we know a lot of people do if they could.

Susan Cohen: Okay.

I think it's a really smart idea.

And I think that it needs
to be explored much further.

Because people they come and go, you know?

and it's interesting over the course of
my career, I've, I've helped a lot of

people that were really desperate to get a
green card and stay in the United States.

And then I've also helped them to
move back to their home countries when

they decided that it was time, when
they wanted to understand what impact

it would have on their green card.

And then I've been practicing for so long
that I've seen them come again a second

time back and get a second green card.

And I've also been
practicing so long that.

I have seen the patterns of families where
I've represented a parent or both parents

who have come and made a career in the
United States for some time, but then

decided they want to give something back
to their home country and they moved back.

And they're working in all kinds of really
important fields doing really good work

and have opportunities to contribute to
their home country for period of time.

And then I see their children
come, they trade places.

So you see the patterns go, they
flow, they flow back and forth.

I completely agree that it would
be so much better all around to

embrace a culture of cooperation
and constructiveness in terms

of the whole immigration system.

We really need to do that in my
opinion, to be more humane, mostly, you

know, and, to not continue to engage
in discrimination and discriminatory

practices, which we see happening
too often in the United States and

I'm sure other places by officers
of the various immigration agencies.

The place I've seen it the most, or
unfortunately I've heard about it

the most from my clients, is at the
borders and the airports, where there's

a lot of mistreatment of people that
goes on and, and there's, you know,

the power goes to the heads of the
officers and is sometimes abused.

I had an anecdote in that book actually,
that just sort of brings it home.

One of my partners, who was very senior
in one of the government agencies in

the Bush administration, was traveling
from Mexico to Texas at the airport.

And he had global entry, you know, the
permission that, you know, you can apply

for that lets you easily come in and
out of the United States without much

fuss and you don't have to wait in long
lines, but he was in line for some reason.

And he was standing there.

And the customs and border protection
officer was berating this poor woman

standing in front of my partner and
treating her so badly, calling her like

names treating her like she was a criminal
and she hadn't done anything wrong.

And she just maybe didn't
speak English so well.

And my partner spoke up in front
of everybody else, he said to the

officer: "you know, you are the first
representative of the United States that

people will ever see when they get off
the plane and come into this country.

And I really think that it's
important that you treat people

with respect and appropriately, and
there's no reason to be treating this

woman the way you're treating her.

And he was standing up for the woman
and that CBP officer became irate.

And he was so upset, maybe a little
embarrassed, that he took my partner

out of line and to secondary inspection.

He said, "you can't talk to me like that."

And he went into the computer system
while my partner was standing there and

he canceled his Global Entry for speaking
up on behalf of a fellow traveler, you

know, just ask the officer to show some
respect in the way he was treating people

and how we talked to people in line.

Isabelle Roughol: And only an American
could even speak up that way because I,

um, I would be terrified to be sent home.

I wouldn't, I wouldn't even try,
however right it is, to speak up.

Susan Cohen: And that just is a reflective
of this kind of cowboy attitude,

right, that officers have oftentimes.

Not all of them, but the
too many of them, I think.

I think they're kind of encouraged within
certain of the agencies to be really

tough and act roughly towards people
when there's really no need for it.

Isabelle Roughol: It's something
that's come up several times

recently in the podcast is this
idea that we keep approaching

immigration as a security thing.

And it's usually in the hands of a
law enforcement agency, rather than

as, you know, economic development,
uh, social care, foreign policy, you

know, all those other things that
are tied in with, with immigration.

Um, it's always, always
law enforcement first.

Susan Cohen: It's true.

And there's no reason that it needed
to evolve that way, but it did.

And we're stuck with that, you know,
but we need keep working to try to

ameliorate some of the harshness.

And then a lot of it has to do with the
kinds of people that are hired into the

agencies and what the standards are,
what the requirements are to be hired,

who is attracted to those kinds of jobs,
and how to reformulate that, right?

Isabelle Roughol: Um,

Does that reflect you think the, um,
public opinion's view on immigration ? I

mean, we know that in the political
sphere, it's an extremely loaded

topic, but do Americans in general
feel as divided about immigration,

as the political sphere is?

Susan Cohen: I don't think so.

The polling doesn't indicate that.

The polling indicates that the majority
of Americans support immigrants and

immigration reform, and, you know,
even to the extent of supporting the

immigration provisions such as they
are in the Build Back Better bill.

And like 85 or 90% of Americans for
sample are in favor of supporting a

pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

And in general, the American people
I think are more inclined towards

immigrants than against them.

But it's used like, as a policy
issue, it's used and weaponized

in very vicious ways by those who
are of a restrictionist mindset.

And they broadcast messages that spark
fear and are based on exaggerated facts or

incorrect facts a lot of the time, or they
will just take something out of context.

You know, President Trump did
that all the time when he was

campaigning and during his presidency.

You know, they would make a policy
decision based on a, a case that was an

anomaly out of, you know, thousands of
cases where maybe there was one bad actor

or one criminal that did something, and,
you know, just extrapolate from that

and to sow fear in hearts and souls of,
of their base, um, about immigrants and

to paint a picture of all immigrants as
being terrible and takers, not givers and

people who are taking benefits that they
mis-characterized, um, and, uh, jobs,

which they also mis-characterized because,
you know, we need immigrants in the United

States, many unskilled immigrants, as well
as skilled immigrants, has to do a lot

of the work that our country needs to get
done that American workers aren't willing

to do or don't have the skills to do.

So it's really facetious, very negative,
really abhorent immigrant stereotyping

and, and fear-mongering, and, but that
unfortunately works just for some, for

some percent of the people that are,
that are paying attention to that.

But I think that the majority of
Americans don't feel that way and

appreciate immigrants, but I, you know,
hoping that through all the kinds of,

uh, good work that people are doing,
including your podcasts and the work

of many nonprofit organizations, human
rights organizations, legal services

organizations, and storytellers that
people are getting the word out to

more and more people to individualize
the message because, you know,

stereotypes just paint a false picture.

And the only way to really understand
the benefits of immigrants and their

contributions is to look on a case-by-case
basis and really show the cumulative

effect of all the good people who are
doing so many wonderful things, making

the country better, adding to the culture,
the fabric of our society instilling

good values in their children, paying
their taxes, paying into the system.

And that's the majority of immigrants.

Isabelle Roughol: Is that why you
wrote the book too, to open people's

eyes to who these people were as,
as human beings, as individuals?

Susan Cohen: That's exactly
why I wrote the book.

I was dealing with my clients
on an individual one by one

basis during the Trump years.

Things were very, very hard.

People were being separated, not
able to come into the country.

Their cases were put on hold for years,
or they were no longer eligible for

benefits under immigration law that they
absolutely should have been entitled

to because policies that the Trump
administration put into place actually

created quotas for denials and all kinds
of things that never existed before.

So cases that should have been
approved got denied for no good

reason, it was basically unlawful.

It had to be fought in court, which we
had to do sometimes to overturn the bad

decisions that were, you know, basically
politically motivated decisions.

I felt that I wanted to do something
more because it didn't seem like it

was enough, you know, at that point
to counter all the anti-immigrant

actions that were happening left and
right relentlessly day in and day out.

And it's just a dark time for immigrants
and for people who care about them.

So, you know, thinking about other things
that I could do to try to spread the word.

And one of the things I did
was I made some music videos

based on songs that I wrote.

Um, one about the Syrian refugee crisis.

And another one about the massing of, of
people coming across from central America,

trying to enter the United States based on
all the violence that was happening there

and the ways that their lives were being
put in danger, and you know, numerous

assassination attempts, even of children
and, you know, just shocking things.

So I wanted to try to tell the story
in music, and then I decided to get

involved in and try to file some really
large class action litigations and big

litigations to try to stop some of the
things that President Trump was doing.

And a lot of those things were,
were useful and I felt like I was

making a difference, but, but I,
I couldn't sleep at night and I

was thinking, what else can I do?

I mean, I just felt like I
needed to do something more than,

than what I was already doing.

I really couldn't, I couldn't rest.

I was too agitated, frankly.

Didn't get a lot of sleep
during the Trump era.


Isabelle Roughol: long years.

Susan Cohen: yeah, I honestly,
I was up almost every night.

I was worried, you know, and I care so
deeply about justice and due process.

Then it's so important for me, um, that
everyone gets a fair shake and that people

are not demonized for, for no reason.

And that their good qualities are allowed
to shine, you know, and people can see.

The whole point of the book, from
my perspective was we can only

counter these broad brush, negative
stereotypes by telling individual

stories of human beings, what
they've gone through, what they had

to overcome just to get here, which
shows, you know, what they're made of.

The immigrants that make it to the United
States for very, very strong people.

They been through so much.

Some of them, you wouldn't imagine what
they've physically survived, you know,

some of the things that happened to
them, the oppression, the torture, the

jailing, for, you know, mostly reasons
like standing up for democracy or trying

to defend someone who's been falsely
accused in another country, standing up

for their rights against a corrupt regime.

And then they make it here.

That in itself is a miracle.

And they're able to put the past behind
them, which is also in my view, quite

remarkable especially with respect to
some of the things my clients and many

others they know have suffered, because
they're so happy to be in this country.

And they, they want so much to be a
part of this democracy and, and to

contribute, and have a decent life here.

Many people come for economic
reasons, but many people come

because they just are not safe.

And, you know, they don't want to leave
their country, but they had to leave it.

They have no choice.

And they try to make the best of it.

And so watching that unfold with my
clients, going through the legal process

with them and watching them, you know,
steal themselves for it and live to

fight another day to try to win their
immigration cases and seeing them put

one foot in front of the other and
move forward, leaving a lot of trauma

behind and building something really
empowering in their work, in their

communities, with their families and we
know with their religious communities

as well, you know, churches, mosques
and, you know, really contributing in

so many important ways to the country.

It's such a gift actually for me
to witness that and I'm so really

impressed and humbled by the resilience,
the integrity, the work ethic and

the determination of my clients.

And I know my clients are just
representative of all the other hundreds

of thousands and truthfully millions of
immigrants that come to the United States,

so I wanted to tell some individual
stories so people could see each person,

you know, as a true fully rounded
human being with a heart and a soul.

So they could embrace them the way I like
to do and see how wonderful they are.

Isabelle Roughol: At the same time, you
hinted at it, it's a lot to take on.

It's a lot of hard things to
engage with on a daily basis and

it's, it's hard work and it's
probably a lot of secondary trauma.

Are you ever tempted to retire
and go take care of your horses

and, and, uh, leave it behind?

Susan Cohen: I will at some point.

I have more music to write and, um, I
think I'll always spend a good part of

my time, trying to broadcast about the
benefit of immigrants to our country

and to other countries then to try to,
just sort of extend the light into our

shared common humanity and try to really
touch people in a way that they might see

something differently for the first time.

And, you know, when they look at,
when they find out that someone is an

immigrant or when they hear about an
immigrant, but they might want to do

more and reach out a hand and friendship,
or to help with someone who needs to

get a job or, you know, be introduced
to other people, to get a leg up, and

then maybe just have more of a chain
of human interaction and understanding.

That's the, you know, that's
really important to me.

I may a hard driving lawyer, but at heart
I'm really just that, I'm a humanist, I,

you know, I believe in building common
humanity, um, and try to bring people

together rather than tear us apart..

Isabelle Roughol: Well, thank you so much
for, uh, for choosing this podcast as

one place to what to build that chain.

I really appreciate it.

And it was great conversation, Susan.

Susan Cohen: Thanks so much for having me.

It's such a pleasure to talk with you.

Isabelle Roughol: That was Susan J.

Cohen who joined us from
Boston, Massachusetts this week.

Apologies if there were any
issues with the sound quality,

we did this one over Zoom.

Her book is "Journeys from There to Here:
Stories of Immigrant Trials, Triumphs

and Contributions," try saying that fast.

It is published by River Grove
Books in the US and there'll

be a link in the show notes.

I'm leaving you with her song Beyond
the Borders, which is performed by

students and alumni of the Berklee
College of Music in Boston, including

the first Syrian woman to be accepted
into this prestigious school.

A welcome and big thank you this
week to three new members, Pedro

Teles, Zach Honig, and Ann Solomon.

This is the last episode of the
season before going away for a little

Christmas break and recharge, as
well as preparing the next season of

Borderline that you'll hear in the
new year, as well as other projects.

Thank you so much for listening.

I will be resharing every week
some of the earlier episodes of

Borderline that you may have missed
if you're a newcomer to the podcast.

So look out for that in your podcast feed.

Make sure that you follow the
podcast in Apple Podcasts, Spotify,

whatever your platform of choice is.

And you can find all those links at where you can also

become a member to support the program.

I would really appreciate it.

It will help us start 2022 with a
bang and bring you a lot more of these

deep conversations about not just
immigration, but what it is like to

live beyond borders, thinking about
big issues with a broader view and

perspective than a single nation state.

That's what I'm trying to do here.

My corny tagline that I think I'm going to
make a thing is small media for big ideas.

Thank you so much for
listening throughout 2021.

Couldn't do it without your
support and your patient ears

paying attention to my ramblings.

I'm your host Isabelle Roughol.

Music was by Susan Cohen this week.

Borderline is a One
Lane Bridge production.

And I will see you in 2022.

Happy holidays to all of you.