Volunteer Spotlight: Phil's Testimony

Oct 16, 2020

by Phil Sussler

I am a 64-year-old attorney (semi-retired), married, with two adult daughters. I moved relatively recently to Maryland from Connecticut, following my wife here when her employment relocated to the area. I studied Spanish and Portuguese literature and languages and Latin American history in college; then, for a large part of my professional career, worked for clients operating in Central and South America. In a practice borrowed from my father, a close student of Spanish and developments south of the Río Grande/Bravo, I started early on taking great interest in developments in Latin America and continue with it to the present, whether or not coupled with my job duties. I see great value in the work of CAIR Coalition bravely defending immigrants against an, often, arbitrary system much in need of reform. The Coalition’s work follows the ethical, and biblically inspired, imperative: be kind to strangers -- mindful of their common humanity, the richness they can add to our society, and our shared experience, recalling the difficult, even while different, earlier immigration of my own ancestors seeking refuge. Volunteering for CAIR Coalition lets me help support its important work. For CAIR Coalition, I served over the last several years many times as a translator of documents used in CAIR’s legal proceedings and translating during client interviews for persons held at the immigrant detention centers in Virginia and Maryland. Document translation has been an education, each task offering a window into the complex, layered, dynamic and often tragic stories affecting immigrants caught within the US immigration system, forming small parts of one of the major stories of our time. Translating for client interviews brings home directly the humanity of CAIR Coalition’s clients and a better understanding of the searing experiences they often face. The work reinforces for me the enduring worth and inspiring optimism of the insights embodied in the injunction, now millennia old, for welcome.