By Ankur Srivastava
Ankur Srivastava, an assistant U.S. attorney, is president of the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago.
As attorneys, a cornerstone of our profession is to speak on behalf of our clients. Whether we are delivering a closing argument, drafting a contract or entering into a settlement negotiation, we advocate for our clients by giving expression to their wants and needs. As I reflect on this year’s theme for Law Day, it strikes me that, at some level, this is precisely what the 14th Amendment strives to do as well. In ratifying this amendment, our nation empowered all of us by giving us a stake in the democratic process and by guaranteeing us due process and the equal protection of the law. Of course, the ratification of the 14th Amendment did not guarantee that its promises would be fulfilled in practice; it was another 50 years before women obtained the right to vote.
This year’s theme for Law Day is particularly timely in light of our recent efforts at the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago. In addition to our usual networking gatherings, CLE panels and mentoring events, we have devoted greater energy this year to making sure that our members and the communities from which they come have a voice. Many of our members felt gravely affected by the executive order banning immigration from Muslim-majority countries and we advocated against the implementation of that order — not only by speaking out against it, but also through the efforts of some of our members who went to O’Hare Airport to provide pro bono legal representation to those who needed it. We also signed on to amicus briefs in two cases pending before the Supreme Court, one having to do with the refugee ban and one having to do with the circumstances in which the government can strip a naturalized citizen of his or her citizenship. As was the case when the 14th Amendment was ratified, it takes engaged citizens — and lawyers — to ensure that all of us can enjoy its guarantees.
Looking ahead to the coming year — our 30th as a bar organization — we hope to continue serving the needs of our members, the legal community and the greater Chicago area by giving our members a voice. In particular, recognizing that our strength lies in unity, we plan to continue our emphasis on collaborating with our sister bar associations and other groups in putting on events and furthering our mission. Finally, as we recognize the importance of the rule of law and the 14th Amendment’s role in transforming American democracy, we relish the opportunity that all of us as lawyers have to play a role in that transformation. Happy Law Day to all of you.