When refugees arrived at Arizona’s southern border seeking asylum, attorneys helped. They advised newcomers about their rights, and they helped strangers ask permission to enter the land of the free.
That access to counsel is one of the hallmarks of a free country. John Adams, before he was president, became a target for ridicule after he defended British soldiers charged in connection with the Boston Massacre. He knew that the rule of law would be a farce if people facing serious government action couldn’t have counsel. He lost half his clients and endured popular scorn to do the right thing. John Adams was a patriot.
One of Arizona’s Congressman, Rep. Paul Gosar, is no John Adams. When Arizona attorneys represented refugees seeking asylum, Gosar threatened criminal prosecution. He accused them of aiding and abetting illegal immigration. He threatened them with bar complaints. His excuse: “We actually have a law — you may not like the law, it is a law until you change it.”
We do have a law. It’s called the First Amendment. It protects the right to petition the government. Lawyers do this every day. We go to court and we ask the government to give our clients something: asylum, acquittal, their house back. Sometimes, we even go to court for clients accused of doing wrong. For example, the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang vigorously enforces its intellectual property. Nobody accuses its lawyers of aiding and abetting the gang’s other crimes.
The lawyers helping immigrants have the same protection. Whatever the outcome of their cases, and regardless of whether their clients have a right to enter or remain in the United States, the lawyers petitioning for asylum have a constitutional right to do so.
When Gosar attacked the asylum lawyers, he wasn’t taking a stand against illegal immigration. He stood against the Constitution. He stood against the right to counsel. He stood against the rule of law. Perhaps he thought he was scoring a few points with immigration hardliners. But we need more people like John Adams in Congress, not more demagogues.
— Samuel Doncaster is a trial attorney at Rose Law Group in Scottsdale
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.