[Marxism] Amy Meselson, Lawyer Who Defended Young Immigrants, Dies at 46

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 8 09:02:33 MDT 2018


NY Times, Aug. 8, 2018
Amy Meselson, Lawyer Who Defended Young Immigrants, Dies at 46
By Sam Roberts

In 2006, an East Harlem high school’s upset victory in a New York 
City-wide robot-building contest proved to be bittersweet for Amadou Ly, 
a member of the winning team.

Not only was Mr. Ly prevented from boarding a plane to Atlanta for the 
national finals with the rest of his team, because he lacked government 
identification; he was also facing deportation as an illegal immigrant.

Mr. Ly (pronounced Lee) had immigrated from Senegal, West Africa, with 
his mother in 2001. A year later, after his visitor’s visa had expired, 
she abandoned him.

In 2004, when a car he was riding in got into an accident, the police 
reported him to the immigration authorities. But that encounter, after a 
series of frustrating court appearances, ultimately delivered him, to 
his good fortune, to Amy Meselson, a Legal Aid Society lawyer in New York.

Ms. Meselson had dedicated her career to defending hundreds of 
vulnerable immigrants from deportation and helping them navigate the 
gaps between the child welfare and national security bureaucracies. She 
recruited volunteers from corporate law firms to represent foster 
children in immigration cases, and she successfully lobbied for a 
special juvenile section in immigration court.

Mr. Ly had been pinning his hopes on the Dream Act, the legislation that 
would have granted a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants 
brought to the United States illegally as children through no fault of 
their own.

When that legislation stalled in Congress, though, Ms. Meselson 
suggested that Mr. Ly’s impressive performance on the East Harlem 
Tutorial Program team at Central Park East High School might elicit 
public support for his case.

“I was very scared at that time,” he recalled, “but I knew I could trust 
her.”

Ms. Meselson helped bring Mr. Ly’s plight to public attention, namely 
providing information for a front-page profile in The New York Times. 
The article produced an outpouring of legal, public and political support.

Federal officials were persuaded to drop the deportation proceedings and 
grant Mr. Ly a foreign student visa. He graduated from Kingsborough 
Community College in Brooklyn, became a citizen, embarked on an acting 
career and moved to Hollywood.

Ms. Meselson, who had struggled with depression since she was a 
teenager, committed suicide on July 22 at her home in Manhattan, her 
mother, Sarah Meselson, said. She was 46.

Mr. Ly, now 30, said in a recorded tribute that he sent to Ms. 
Meselson’s family: “I was able to stay in this country, I was able to 
live my dream and grow up and feed my family and help out others because 
she helped me and she did it with open arms. She was my hero.”

Ms. Meselson worked in the immigration law unit of the Legal Aid Society 
in New York from 2002 until 2016, focusing on unaccompanied migrant 
children. She had recently become the managing attorney of the Immigrant 
Justice Corps, a volunteer program to provide free counsel.

Chief Judge Robert Katzmann, of the United States Court of Appeals for 
the Second Circuit, who was instrumental in founding the Immigrant 
Justice Corps, described Ms. Meselson in an email as “a life saver and 
life giver.”

“What Amy did was to give hope to immigrants and their families, to make 
it possible for dreams for a better life to be realized, for despair to 
be transformed into hope,” Judge Katzmann said.

Amy Valor Meselson was born on Dec. 4, 1971, in Boston to Matthew 
Meselson, a molecular biology professor at Harvard, and Sarah Page 
Meselson, who researched human rights conditions in Latin America and 
the Caribbean for the political asylum division of the United States 
immigration service.

Ms. Meselson earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a 
master’s from Harvard, both in philosophy. (Her senior thesis at Brown 
was about free will and determinism.) She earned her law degree at Yale.

In addition to her mother, she is survived by her father; her sister, 
Zoe Forbes; her stepmother, Jeanne Guillemin Meselson; her stepfather, 
Arthur Podaras; her stepsisters, Paola and Isabel Emerson; and her 
stepbrothers, Rob and John Guillemin and William Emerson IV.

Ms. Meselson earned her middle name by surviving a life-threatening 
respiratory disease. Besides dealing with depression, she had recently 
been given a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and extreme anxiety 
— all aggravated when she traveled to Greece two years ago to volunteer 
at a camp for Syrian refugees, Sarah Meselson said at a memorial service.

At the service, she said she wanted to recount her daughter’s maladies 
for two reasons.

“One,” she said, “is to emphasize what everyone already knows — that it 
is not always possible to comprehend the level of suffering that others 
may be experiencing, especially when they appear to be successful and to 
excel to the extent that Amy did.

“The other,” she added, “is to applaud my daughter for all that she 
accomplished despite her mental illness.”


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