2018 Winter Holiday Greetings

Dear Family and Friends:

Happy Holidays!

Our immigration law practice never has a dull moment. The daily storm of responding to clients, visa approvals, consular processings, denials, ICE pick-ups, CBP border control actions, expedited removals, executive orders, lack of judicial review, circuit court decisions involving changing immigration ideals, and maintaining corporate talents, all merge into a blur by the end of the day and through the years. I’m grateful that I’ve had the privilege to see firsthand all these changes after immigrating to America as a poor foreign student in 1969 and evolving into a daughter, wife, mother, sister, and active practicing lawyer helping others on the same path.

It is interesting to delve into the psyche, hearts, and minds of people from different countries and to learn from each person what his or her needs are. Most of we foreign-born pay our taxes, do not have serious criminal records, and are not at all like the media’s often negative portrayal of immigrants. I know because I’ve worked with them (us) for more than forty years, and the practice I have built with my partners and associates has become very successful.

We have 9 offices now and word continues to spread about us nationally. Our Cleveland office remains our main kitchen and is the most diverse. We have expanded our Nashville and Columbus offices from office suites to per­manent spaces. Our partners, lawyers, and staff are the best we’ve ever recruited and maintained. Immigration is categorized as civil law. However, immigration enforcement and criminal prosecution are more intertwined than ever, and it will get worse. As a result, we have grown our criminal defense practice in coordination with removal defense.  Even U.S. citizens are having their citizenship questioned and are being deported.

My world opened after losing my husband of more than thirty years and my parents. I hate the word “widow” – it connotes victimhood and the vastness of loss. I and a lot of my women friends feel renewed, wonderment, self­lessness and selfishness, in my own space and time, doing what I can to maybe touch some lives and making this world into a better place. I feel a sense of empowerment in doing what needs to be done. I challenge wordsmiths to come up with a better word for this wonderful passage of life.

My family continues to thrive. Rose and George continue to run the Pearl Asian Kitchen and Pearl of the Orient Restaurant. From the four of us (Cecilia included) who came since 1969, there are now more than thirty of us spread throughout the U.S.

I remain committed to my work and am thrilled every day that I am in the United States of America, reading, writing, and working ferociously.

With warm regards for a happy holiday season,

Margaret W Wong, Esq.

December 2018

Dearest Dad,

Early in September, the family, including kids and spouses, young and old, took a trip to Seattle. The weather was glorious, the hotel luxurious, and the company unparalleled. We gave into gluttony, as we are wont to do on vacation. Five days (and as many pounds) later, back to Cleveland for a reality check. When I stepped on the scale, my eyes popped out of my head. I stepped off, willing the scale to recalibrate, and then stepped back on. No change.

As if on cue, Theresa called to tell me about the Whole30® diet she and Craig had just started. No sugar, no carbs, no dairy, and no legumes. I thought, “How hard can it be?” I have never liked beans, milk or rice, and we rarely eat bread, so carbs, dairy and legumes do not present a problem. Sugar, however, is my vice. But 30 days? That’s a blink of an eye.

The first day went quite well … or so I thought. I proudly told Theresa that, for lunch, I’d had peaches marinated in honey and my homemade vinegar, at which point, she said, “Mom, honey is sugar:’ “No way;’ I responded, “It’s from bees, and it’s organic…” But fine, honey is out. For dinner, I’d had stir-fried beef with broccoli in the famous Pearl sauce; no rice. She asked what was in the sauce, and I said, “Hoisin sauce, soy sauce…” “But mom, those are made from legumes …”

The next day, I went grocery shopping. It appears every package, bottle, and can contained sugar, sulfites, and alphabets of ingredients I could not even pronounce. Frustrated, I headed toward the exit. As I passed through the meat section, I had this vivid memory of you holding my hand, strolling through the meat market, all the while extolling the virtues of pork and beef bones and ginger root as the essence of a great soup. I smiled. Once again, you came to my rescue. I went back into the store and bought enough bones and ginger to prepare soup stock for an army.

Dad, you used to say: Good cooks rely on tasty ingredients, whereas great cooks, with only their imagination and willingness to discard the old and embrace the new, can tum almost anything into a gourmet meal. I remember watching in awe as you turned ground beef into a three-course masterpiece and made fake crab meat with chicken eggs and duck eggs.

And so, I went back to my roots, to those long-forgotten days of feeling the freshness of farmer’s market vegetables, smelling the aroma of fresh herbs, and massaging meats to tenderize them … a time of more mindful, healthy cooking and eating. Slowly – agonizingly slowly – my cravings diminished. Cookies, ice cream, and even Godiva chocolate do not hold the same allure they once did. My relationship with food has gone from alternating between overindulgence and repression to liberation and guilt-free enjoyment … at least for now.

Once upon a time, though we could not even afford nicer cuts of meat, we still ate well. In the daily grind and quest for prosperity, eating became automatic, and food was either a necessity or a vice, rarely anything in between. I can’t say I’ve adhered strictly to Whole30®, but the experience made me realize how negligent I had become of my health and well-being. We are only given one life, and a finite one at that, a fact emphasized by the loss of mom and Bernie’s dad last year. Again, your wisdom rings true: When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Thank you, dad, for being my constant teacher.

Dad, this will be the 22nd year that you will not be here with us to celebrate Christmas. I take some comfort in knowing that you are now in good company, but I still miss you as much as the day you left.

Your third daughter Rose

Christmas 2018.

Poetic Gestures and the Subway

Riding the subway in New York City regularly can be tough. During rush hour, the train is inevitably packed near the entrance of the car, forcing me to be “that guy” who, to the other riders’ amusement or annoyance, tries to squeeze into the six inches of space between someone’s backpack and the closing doors. The subsequent ride could be described as a simultaneously claustrophobic and yet isolating experience, as everyone is having their personal space invaded but also determined to avoid eye contact by staying glued to their phones or studying the advertisements on the walls.

But even the subway has its moments of redemption. The first thing that comes to mind is how, no matter how many people are rushing in and out of the subway station, someone will always stop and help another person carry something bulky or heavy up or down the stairs. Many subway stations in New York, especially the older ones, don’t have elevators, or the elevators are located in impractical locations. It can be a struggle for those who have trouble getting around, like someone pushing a double- or triple-stroller with kids, or an elderly person pulling a wire shopping cart. I always find it amazing how disparate people of all colors and backgrounds (who just a few moments earlier were doing their best to ignore everyone around them) will stop, offer to help, and-either alone or with the help of another passerby- bring stuff up or down the stairs for someone who looks like they need a hand.

Recently I was visiting my in-laws in Seoul, Korea, and I had the chance to see an exhibition of works by the Belgian artist Francis Alÿs. Alÿs, who was born in 1959 and is based in Mexico City, creates works in a variety of media that examine the political implications of simple, poetic actions. I was most intrigued by the artist’s treatment of “borders” in our contemporary world, a topic that he approaches from a position that is both whimsical and yet dryly serious. In one video work, he nonchalantly strolls along a winding 15-mile route through Jerusalem while holding a leaking can of green paint, recreating the actual “green line” that was drawn on a map in that color to demarcate land under Israel’s control after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Alÿs’ artistic gesture questions the social and psychological legacy of this border, which no longer sits where it once was precisely due to the violent-conflicts that followed its creation.

In another work, the artist traveled from Mexico to the U.S. but avoided the U.S.-Mexico border by taking flights from Tijuana -> Mexico City -> Panama City -> Santiago -> Auckland -> Sydney -> Singapore -> Bangkok-> Rangoon -> Hong Kong -> Shanghai -> Seoul -> Anchorage -> Vancouver -> Los Angeles -> San Diego. Like countless foreign-born, Alÿs exploited an innovative means of reaching the U.S. from Mexico but never actually had to cross the border, highlighting not only the absurdity of the border in our globalized world but also the hardships of the non-elites who have no other means but to negotiate the physical border. To me, the title of the artist’s exhibition in New York from 2007 is particularly effective in summing up his point: “Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political, and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic.”

Back to the subway-could we say that it is a “borderless” place? In the subway, there are no divisions based on differences like class, race, nationality, or immigration status. Even the well-heeled need to ride the subway when the above-ground traffic is bad. And I would argue that the act of putting differences or preconceptions aside and helping strangers bring their things up or down the stairs is a poetic gesture, in the sense that the act of helping another represents an opportunity, however brief, to see and try to grasp the world from their position.

Can this type of small action have any actual or political effect on our society? I’d like to think so. After all, we are living in an era when issues surrounding the borders both within and on the periphery of our country (and the borders in our minds) are as divisive in our society as ever. My thoughts turn to a set of questions that Francis Alÿs displayed as text on the wall of his 2007 exhibition in New York: “Can an artistic intervention truly bring about an unforeseen way of thinking? … Can those kinds of artistic acts bring about the possibility of change?” I hope the answer is yes, and I hope we can all see ourselves as artists who can undertake poetic gestures, large or small, in our everyday lives.

Joseph Fungsang  I October 30, 2018