Hello Everybody. This is Cyrus Mehta. Welcome to this week’s edition of immigration matters.
Our colleague in the immigration bar, Arthur C. Helton, died tragically and prematurely on Tuesday, August 19, 2003, in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad. Helton was 54. He was in Baghdad to assess humanitarian conditions, consistent with his life-long commitment to assuring human rights.
Helton, a leading authority on refugee and humanitarian issues, worked at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights for 12 years, where he led the Refugee Rights Program and conceptualized a program that enabled lawyers from large law firms with no background in immigration law to take on deserving asylum cases on a pro bono basis. This model has been replicated in the representation of battered immigrants, and most recently, with those subject to Special Registration. Helton’s most recent position was with the Council on Foreign Relations, as the director of peace and conflict studies. He taught immigration and refugee law classes at New York University School of Law and at Central European University in Budapest. He touched the lives of scores of young lawyers inspiring to take up the cause of refugees and immigrants.
According to Christina LaBrie, an associate at the firm and a student of his at New York University School of Law: “Professor Helton was humble about his personal accomplishments, but passionate about refugee and asylum issues.”
In the early 80s, Helton was at the center of virtually every legislative and regulatory battle involving refugees. He shaped US national policy regarding refugees. In recent times, he focused internationally on refugees and led delegations around the world. Refugees worldwide have lost a tireless advocate, a great friend, and one of their leading and brightest lights.
At the time of the bombing, Helton was scheduled to meet at the UN headquarters in Baghdad with Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN’s chief envoy to Iraq, who was also killed in the bombing.
With the death of so many people in Iraq, the war that was unilaterally started by our Administration is turning out to be a quagmire. According to New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, “How long is it going to take for us to recognize that the war we so foolishly started in Iraq is a fiasco – tragic, deeply dehumanizing and ultimately unwinable? How much time and how much money and how many wasted lives is it going to take?” (“A Price Too High,”
New York Times, August 21, 2003). In an era where acts of violence beget even more violent retaliation, it is unfortunate to have lost people like Helton and de Mello, and scores of others, who attempted to achieve peaceful resolutions to conflicts and justice for all.
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This is Cyrus Mehta wishing you a wonderful weekend. See you again in two weeks.