The summer of 2018 was one defined by anti-immigration rhetoric and a celebration of crude immigration enforcement policies. I was approached by Arian Moayed, an accomplished actor and producer and himself an immigrant, who was seeking a real transcript of a deportation proceeding to present as a stage production. By presenting one immigrant’s personal experience, Arian hoped to add a human component to the immigration conversation, and in a truthful way, since every aspect of the production was based on real world experiences and verbatim interactions. After a long series of conversations with Arian about his goals, and giving much thought to which, if any, of my immigration cases might be a good fit, we decided on the case of my client Elizabeth Keathley. With Elizabeth’s and her family’s blessing, I shared with Arian transcripts of her case, a legal fight involving multiple appeals including up to the federal court, including the U.S. Court of Appeals. After reading through this voluminous file, Arian found the story he was looking for – one that was compelling and even reminded him of his own family’s struggles navigating our immigration system and overall, life in a new land.
I’ve never been in a movie before. And in both the play and film production, Richard Hanus is a featured character, with an actor playing me and speaking the very words I spoke while fighting for Elizabeth Keathley, and her right to remain in the United States. It was a strange experience of course, watching some of the most tense moments of your professional life, not to mention your clients’ tortured moments, presented as an artistic production and for the world to see and discuss. But, the story is powerfully inspirational is many ways, and more than anything I am proud. I am proud of the unwavering human spirit to seek justice that fueled this deportation fight and just as important, I am proud of the justice that is attainable in our great nation.