Seeing the Immigration System from Multiple Sides
Juliana Madaki is one of the many people who have been drawn to the Immigration Justice Campaign in part because of their own immigrant experience. She moved to the United States in 1986 from Nigeria. After a long career in aircraft engineering, she went in a new direction, and now works in private practice as an immigration attorney in Louisville, KY. She began volunteering with the Immigration Justice Campaign in 2019.
We asked Juliana a few questions about the immigration system and her own multifaceted experiences with it.
Are there any aspects of your own immigrant experience that have informed the work you’ve done with the Immigration Justice Campaign?
Yes! Until I came to the United States, I didn’t know what it was really like to be alone because one couldn’t get away from people. I always had people around me. I can understand the feeling and accompanying fear, from time to time, of being alone that can come upon a person. Although it was not the same as being in detention, I am always mindful how being in that environment can oppress a person’s spirit.
What are the top things you’d like the general public in the U.S. to know about the U.S. immigration system?
I hear people refer to asylum seekers as “illegals.” Seeking asylum is not an illegal act. An immigrant that arrives at a port of entry or crosses the border and seeks asylum is complying with the law.
Also, I hear many people complain that immigrants should stand in line and wait their turn. For some people, there is no line to stand in. Such people may not meet the requirements to get a visa to enter, may not have eligible relatives to apply for them, may not be fortunate to be a citizen of countries with privileges, or may not have an asylum claim.
What has been the most rewarding part of the work you’ve done with the Immigration Justice Campaign?
Experiencing the immigrant’s joy when they receive the benefit they sought. I feel their joy. It’s an amazing feeling!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I believe that most people simply want the flexibility to move across borders freely and then return home. The European Union has already proven that it is possible to create a union that allows free movement within the union successfully, notwithstanding Brexit. I think that this is a model that can work around the world. I think that it is the borders themselves that create immigration issues. I recognize that increased mobility is a terrifying idea to some people. But I can confidently point to the European Union as an example on a large scale that there is nothing frightening about this idea, and it is possible to achieve.