Campbell Walked the Immigration Walk

An attorney walking the immigration walk or talking the immigration talk has a ready insight to real-life situations.
That is especially true for Campbell Cooke, an immigration attorney, who received his U.S. citizenship April 11.
Make no mistake about this country’s immigration laws. They make becoming a citizen is a long, difficult journey and many don’t achieve that status despite their efforts. They just give up.
Cooke and a handful of immigration attorneys working in Tulsa know they could make more money in other practices. But they have chosen this area as a way to help people become part of the American dream.
Originally from England, Cooke first earned a law degree in South Africa and worked as a public prosecutor.
He came to the U.S. to study shipping law in 1995 and redid his law degree at the Massachusetts Schools of Law in Boston.
A job offer brought him to Tulsa, a city that has become his home ‘‘because it is like Toronto, Canada, in size and mentality and the people are nice.’’
The Tulsa position involved helping foreign medical professionals work in the U.S., a task that might seem simple, but each day becomes increasingly difficult.
‘‘Immigration law is the only thing I practice,’’ Cooke said. ‘‘If you are serious about this practice, you can’t do anything else. The government keeps changing its mind about what they want on a daily basis. Even if that didn’t happen, it takes years to really learn immigration law.
‘‘I will stay with immigration law and it is a passion. It really is nice to do work where you feel you make a difference and benefit people,’’ he added. ‘‘It is nice to live and see the result of your work.’’
Going through the immigration process to earn his U.S. citizenship, Cooke has a deep understanding of frustrations people have.
‘‘I am providing pro bono legal services for community groups dealing with immigration,’’ he said, including the University of Tulsa, Congressmen John Sullivan and Dan Boren, Catholic Charities, B’nai B’rith, the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries and the Spanish Organization of Hispanics.
Campbell’s work also includes helping immigrant victims of domestic violence through a Legal Assistance to Victims Grant through DVIS, the Domestic Violence Intervention Service.
It is possible for some to obtain citizenship almost immediately if records are properly researched.
Tracing forefathers who helped the U.S. during the Spanish American War or working on the Panama Canal can provide data that meets immediate citizenship requirements.
Sometimes it is necessary to step back and take a deep breath before starting the paperwork that would lead toward citizenship.
One of the first things that must be done is determining where the person is from, the current circumstances that brought him to this country and both short and long-term goals.
An attorney working on immigration law making a mistake actually can permanently divide families, he said.
It is very important to determine a plan of action that would, if necessary, include the entire family. A mistake could get a family member deported. It is disheartening when a mother is stuck outside the country for 10 years and the husband must raise their children by himself. If something is done at the wrong time, that person can be permanently barred from ever entering this country or becoming a U.S. citizen.
Half of this work is being a lawyer, Cooke continued, the other half is being a social worker. This job is very emotional.
He provided an example of a family deciding to move to China with no plans to ever return to their native country.
They would be faced with learning the language, laws and culture. It would take a lot of determination and patience to achieve their citizenship goal in that country. Many people find it just too difficult and pack up and go home.
‘‘As an immigrant, I found this process stressful enough,’’ Cooke said, ‘‘and I am white, Anglo Saxon, male and speak English.’’
He personally finds additional stress is added to his role as an attorney because he knows that some clients will be killed if they return to their country.
An upsurge in nationalism in the U.S. also is causing problems, Cooke said. Unrealistic quotas allowing people to enter is creating an economic hardship on everyone.
Many companies need employees, but can’t get them because people cannot legally come into the country to take the jobs. Building a 700-mile fence in the desert isn’t going to stop the problem.
But there is hope on the horizon because of the Strive Act now under consideration by the U.S. Congress.
This act will balance the needs of employers and families, allowing people to come into the country legally and provide enforcement tools, he said. No one, including illegal immigrants, want amnesty. Amnesty doesn’t fix the problem, it just relieves symptoms — and this isn’t even a temporary fix.
Some states, including Oklahoma, have given up on the federal government and individually are trying to deal with the immigration issue.
HB1804 being considered by the state legislature is a disturbing piece of legislation and is doomed to failure, Cooke said. ‘‘I don’t believe it is enforceable even if it is passed. It is more of a political statement than serious legislation.’’
Immigration impacts every aspect of every community in this country, he continued. It is a major problem and if all communities do not accept and welcome these people, they will create small foreign national communities of their own. The result is gang violence.
‘‘When I first came to Tulsa in 1998, I met a Baptist minister who said if something wasn’t done immediately this city would have an East Los Angeles on its hands. No one listened and he was dead right in his assessment. We have our own gang situation on our hands at this time.’’
Despite any difficulties he might have encountered while going through the immigration process, Cooke said he is deeply appreciative of his new citizenship.
‘‘I have worked with some of the most generous and nice-hearted people I have ever come across in my life,’’ he said. ‘‘It is a big deal, a very big deal.’’
Cooke can be contacted at 299-7730.

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