Tower City Center; Cleveland, OH

Tower City Center; Cleveland, OH

New crowdfunding page & law office are up and running!

First, thanks to you all for your patience as I've been working on the new crowdfunding site -- it is now live and running at! Since my Virtual Law Office has opened its doors, I've already been able to talk to a number of people regarding their immigration status. Thank you for supporting my work!

My roots here in the US

This past year since I left Oakland on this pro bono journey, I have lived mostly in places where I haven't spent significant time before -- such as Montana, the Navajo Reservation, and other locations.

This past week, I made my way through Cleveland, Ohio -- where I have a lot of family history, and am making a short pit stop back in Lowell, Massachusetts -- where I grew up. Both of these places are very important and significant to me as my roots and experience here are very formative to who I am.

Walking around the Flats district in downtown Cleveland, Ohio

Walking around the Flats district in downtown Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland Rocks

It is great to be back on the East Coast! The last time I saw the great blue sea was in the Gulf of Mexico after I wrapped up my time working at detention centers in South Texas, and then the Pacific Ocean when I was working at the largest detention center on the West Coast in Seattle.

The road from Detroit to New England has been one of retracing my own roots -- a reminder of where I've come from and a time to reflect on that. 

After leaving Detroit, I spent some time in Cleveland, Ohio -- where my dad was born and raised and where I still have extended family. 

My great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Gleason, immigrated to Cleveland from County Cork, Ireland in the 1880s. He worked as a stoker on the Great Lakes barges to and from Duluth, Minnesota. Generations after him would continue to make a home out of Cleveland, another industrial, working class town -- as streetcar operators, doing mechanic work, and more.

During the boom of the industrial days in this country, Cleveland was a hot spot on Lake Erie. The steel industry and other industry were in their prime. Then, after production halted, things were in decline. I remember growing up hearing slogans like "the mistake on the lake" and it's no secret that until this year's Cavs championship -- Cleveland experienced one of the longest sports championship droughts in history. But this drought was rooted in a larger narrative, as a commenter on the New York Times described:

"It’s hard to explain what this championship means to greater Cleveland’s residents. It has been 52 years (more than a half century) since the town’s last championship. In that time this rust belt region has painfully transitioned from steel producing and auto making to service, healthcare and tech. During that time comedians made the community the brunt of national jokes as people struggled to make livings in this most challenging region. Most people can take and enjoy a joke at their expense, but it’s a different situation when the joke becomes your identity as if only fools would remain in such a region. Our sports teams played into this persona perfectly as they found ever creative ways to lose spectacularly when the big moment infrequently presented itself. The drive, the fumble, the 1997 world series – it’s too painful to go any further and I have only scratched this surface.

LeBron James with nothing to prove came back to Cleveland with the sole purpose to win a championship for a city that he loves. It was his homage to a town and region that he understood needed a boost and the respect from a national audience. Tomorrow our hard scrabble residents will return to work with smiles on their faces reflecting this moment and a lifetime of memory for this historic feat. Most importantly and from now on, the next time someone tells a Cleveland joke, it will be met with this quizzical expression –'I don’t get it'."

I have always felt an endearment and sense of loyalty/defensiveness when it came to Cleveland. I loved visiting as a kid and I loved visiting as an adult.

I have so much love for this city -- to me, it represents so much of where America has been and the best of its potential. There is a sense of pride in the city of Cleveland that is tough to match in other cities across the country. I think it's true that in Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. 

Running a number of personal/professional errands in downtown Boston

Running a number of personal/professional errands in downtown Boston

Love that dirty water... Boston, you're my home

After wrapping up in Cleveland, I made the long drive back to New England. Driving through upstate New York was a familiar route for me as I remember traveling between Lowell and Cleveland as a child. The service centers lined I-90 as I continued to make my way east.

And just like that -- I'm back in Massachusetts. It's a short stop for me as I am scurrying around taking care of life things that I haven't had the chance to (routine doctor's appointments, making sure my trusty car is still in shape, other personal/professional errands). 

And I have a lot of pride in my hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts (birthplace of the Industrial Revolution!). 

Similar to Cleveland, there have been a lot of misconceptions about Lowell. I grew up (and still to this day) hear a lot of generalizations about Lowell being a "rough and tumble" type of town. I often found that it was because people had never spent any significant time in Lowell or that they didn't take the time to understand the city's essence -- a strong blue collar, working class suburb that I am proud to have grown up in (fun fact: and the home of Jack Kerouac -- he grew up on the same street as one of my closest friends).

I remember when I was out working in Seattle, I was visiting with some new friends. They had a Bernie for President sign and a Black Lives Matter sign out on their front yard. I was looking forward to getting to know them because it seemed like we had a lot of similarities and common ideologies.

Upon my arrival, one of them asked where I grew up, and I told them Lowell, MA. Without skipping a beat, he asked in all seriousness: "Isn't that the shittiest town in Massachusetts?" 

<brakes slamming> Whhaaaaat. Wow. How is this progressive and inclusive? I asked myself thinking of the signs in the front yard before beginning to push back hard on this question. (It was admittedly a 'lil difficult for me to maintain my composure!)

And the overall essence of this sentiment is why I think there is such a schism in socially progressive circles and hard working, traditionally blue collar, Democrat communities. All too often, the attitude of "flyover country" and working class towns are regarded by some level of disdain of social progressives -- therefore warranting the label of "elites" by many people of the working class. 

I feel this is a dangerous divide to continue to perpetuate. As I wrote about last week re: my time in Detroit -- we need to continue creating an all-inclusive narrative of America. One that includes new immigrants, working class families that have resided in towns for generations -- all working towards a country that provides peace, safety, and opportunity for everyone.

As an immigration rights attorney, I think about how at the end of the day -- we each have such a unique, individualized story -- and most of us very much want the same things and have the same needs in life. I feel that this sense of being able to recognize ourselves in others is the key to continuing to work and organize for much needed progress. All of us were born and raised somewhere and feel some level of endearment towards that -- and want this to be seen and respected.

The next stop

The next time I will write, I will be living in the South Bronx in New York City working with different immigration organizations and clinics. I am very excited to absorb as much as possible in a city rich with immigration resources.

If you find yourself in NYC over the next 2 or so months, please let me know! And similarly, if you know of any like-minded folks or organizations I should meet, I'd be super grateful for the connection. Until next time!