This past weekend, I attended the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. I went to the NAPABA conference last year in Kansas City, Missouri. This conference reminds me why I am in law school, why I need to pay it forward, and why diversity is important. With 1500 attorneys and judges in one area, I felt a sense of empowerment, identity, and comfort. This conference celebrated the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act and centered on the issue of immigration.
The keynote address was particularly significant. Somewhat of a celebrity, Jose Antonio Vargas delivered the keynote speech on the last night of the conference. His message was simple but inspirational; we need to fix the immigration laws in America. What stood out to me was his promotion for his film, Documented, and his political action group, Define American. It made me wonder what it means to be American, and how do we as a nation choose who gets to have that legal title. His speech can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvH43B0xYrE
The night before his Jose Antonio Vargas’ speech, Arizona law enforcement lived up to its stereotype. After all the events for the day, there was a late night event at a karaoke bar. Filled with over a hundred attorneys singing great tunes such as “Bye, Bye, Bye!” by N’Sync and Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, there was also tune of sirens. From downstairs of the karaoke bar, you could see flashing blue and red lights. As a nosy law student, I asked what happened. Local law enforcement conducted a “paper stop.” That is when law enforcement has a reasonable suspicion that a civilian is undocumented, and stops them to make sure they have identification or “papers.”
I could not believe that law enforcement would do that when there was a room full of lawyers inside. It reminded me that no matter where you make it, how you look determines how you are treated. It reminded me that as a future lawyer, I can at least speak up for those who cannot speak up in the legal system. I did not intend to attend law school for immigration law but now I regret not taking the immigration law class by an outstanding professor committed to diversity at the law school (Professor Juliet Stumpf). I do intend on providing my service to the public interest and will do my part as an ally to issues that affect basic human and civil rights.
These photos do no justice to the awesomeness of the event but the first is Jose Antonio Vargas delivering his keynote speech. The second is my podmate Hannah, with her table centerpiece that she named Fred. I thought it was a very nice centerpiece and wanted to take it back to Oregon with me. The last is just a picture Mr. Vargas' powerpoint presentation.