Sarah Moshe, Immigration Law, Lewis & Kappes
My wife has been close friends with Sarah for over 25 years. In the time I have known her, her passion for immigration law has always been apparent. Immigration is an issue that is frequently politicized and spoken about in sweeping generalizations. But the reality is that behind the numbers and rhetoric, there are individuals who have a broad range of circumstances. Sarah has a great deal of compassion for immigrants and seeks to help them achieve their American dream.
I photographed Sarah at the Lewis & Kappes offices in downtown Indy as she met with clients. Her assistant, Daisy Davila-Dollard, who Sarah states is essential to her ability to get things done, is with her in the image below.
The following set of six questions will be answered by each of the subjects.
1) Some people call it a “true calling” or their “life’s work.” In the book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. What do you consider to be your true calling, or Personal Legend?
I eat, sleep, breathe, sweat, and cry immigration. Literally. You can find me ordering tacos at Carnicería Guanajuato. My bedroom wall is decorated with a mural depicting El Día de los Muertos, handcrafted by a close friend from Mexico. I dedicate countless hours to researching our country’s ever-changing laws, traipsing back and forth across Capitol Hill to discuss policy with members of Congress, and rocking clients’ newborn babies while deciphering their histories and crafting case management plans. I weep reading books like The Devil’s Highway (Luis Alberto Urrea), The Tortilla Curtain (T.C. Boyle), and Prayers for the Stolen (Jennifer Clement). Tears stream down my face when a trial concludes, when my clients are unshackled and reunited with their families outside a courtroom.
Immigration is my life’s work. Immigration is my Personal Legend, and I have the incredible fortune to earn a living doing precisely what I love. I am an immigration defense attorney.
2) When did you first realize that this was your calling?
I feel like I’ve known my entire life this is my calling.
My mom used to tell a story about losing me in the 130,000 ft2 Kittle’s showroom when I was four or five years old. She realized I had wandered off from her, which was highly unusual, and frantically searched the store. When she spotted me, I was following behind a Spanish-speaking family – my eyes as wide as saucers with wonder at the sounds and lively gesticulations.
I was fluent in Spanish before high school graduation, and earned honors after documenting my own pilgrimage, on foot, through Mexico City to La Basilica de Santa María de Guadalupe. I majored in Latin American Studies in college, and wrote my law school application essays about migrant farmworkers’ rights.
Being immersed in other cultures, even in my very own city, and helping families pursue their dreams while simultaneously enrichening Indianapolis with their native languages, cuisine, music, literature, and film is what I have always, always wanted to do.
3) People often become completely engrossed, losing track of time or outside concerns while performing tasks related to their calling. This might be referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow.” When do you experience this most often?
Every. Single. Day. The world could be crumbling around me while I am meeting with a potential client for the very first time, and I would be blissfully unaware. There is something ethereal about listening intently to an immigrant’s story.
A 15-year-old Honduran girl who journeyed alone, crouched for days in the shipping container connected to a semi, who hopes to enroll at Speedway High School. A 45-year-old Colombian man who fled when the guerrilla forces infiltrated his village, and is now dying of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, who wants to make sure his undocumented wife has a valid driver’s license so she can transport him to medical appointments. A 19-year-old boy from South Sudan who can run a four-minute mile, who overstayed his student visa because civil war broke out in his home country days after his arrival in the United States, and he has not been able to locate his family (who he last heard was in a refugee camp in a neighboring African nation) in over two years.
Hanging on every word uttered, every memory behind eyes that have seen far more than I could ever imagine, I listen. Then, I probe every statute, regulation, and precedential case in search of a way to help. I would go to the ends of the earth, even while the world is crumbling, for these precious people.
4) What is the greatest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in pursuit of your life’s work?
Triplets! I’m certain I love my children more than any other mother has ever loved a child (all mothers say that, don’t we?!), and everything from the mundane – reviewing homework, ironing uniforms, and packing lunches – to the spectacular – spontaneous snuggles on the sofa, sharing my wanderlust with them while their minds and souls are still sponges, and conversations with them about anything and everything – brings me great joy. I’d be lying, though, if I professed to be able to draft a killer brief or, honestly, to be able to even think about clients and cases, while I am mothering three eight-year-olds.
Life is a magnificent balance. My kiddos and their needs force me to rest my constantly-churning mind. Doing arts and crafts with them, going on a scavenger hunt in our neighborhood, and shooting baskets at dusk is the best kind of break. If it weren’t for Noah, Aila, and Gabriel, I might never leave my office! I would lose out on so much beauty outside of my niche!
5) What has pursuing your Personal Legend taught you?
Patience. Compassion. Open-mindedness. Cultural sensitivity. Foreign languages! Respect – for my co-workers, clients, opposing counsel, judges, and government. Humility. Gratitude.
6) What piece of advice can you offer to others seeking their true calling?
Well, the best piece of advice I received was from Jay Foonberg, in his book, How to Start and Build a Law Practice. He writes, “To succeed in the practice of law over a period of years requires a deep and sincere desire to help people. If you are looking upon your license to practice law simply as a ticket to making money, or as a one-way ticket out of the ghetto or barrio, then you are making a serious mistake… If you are entering the legal profession solely to make money, you are making a serious mistake… With proper management and proper client relations skills, the economic rewards will follow the rendering of high-quality legal services.”
Identify what you love. Think of nothing but that, and go for it. Do it. Do it as well as possible, giving it every ounce of your essence. The money, which we all need to survive, will come. I promise.
Are you following your Personal Legend? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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