SALT LAKE CITY — As an immigration lawyer based in Utah, Skyler Anderson understands the intricacies of the immigration process.
“The impact you make (as an immigration lawyer) is huge — when you’re successful,” Anderson said in a recent phone interview. “I’ve had husbands come in crying because their wives were arrested, or vice versa. You see lives falling apart in front of you and when you can actually stop that — that’s why I keep doing it. But with the wins come the losses as well.”
Recently Anderson authored a fiction novel portraying some of the little-known difficulties his immigration clients face.
The novel, the Brigham Young University graduate said, combines many of the legal, social and ethical dilemmas he’s seen in his practice into a fictional story that aims to educate its reader on the limitations of the United States immigration system. The book's title, “The Right Way,” refers to the idea that illegal immigrants should return home and immigrate to the U.S. "the right way."
“The purpose isn’t to shame or guilt people on one side of the argument,” Anderson said. “It's not a call for the impeachment of Donald Trump or to vilify ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents or things like that. The point is to educate, to the best of my ability, people on both sides.”
In "The Right Way," Anderson portrays the dynamics of living in the U.S. illegally through his protagonist, Fredy, a 40-year-old Hispanic man who faces deportation after being brought to the U.S. as a child. Over the course of the novel, Fredy contends with challenging cultural, legal and personal dilemmas which, in Anderson’s view, accurately depict some of the obstacles his real-world clients face.
One of Anderson's primary concerns while writing the book, he said, was to accurately portray and explain some of the “absurd” laws at play in today’s immigration system.
“I wish that the laws discussed in the novel were fiction or exaggerated for the purpose of entertainment and at the end I could just tell the reader — 'Don't worry. It's just a story.' But the laws discussed are true,” Anderson said. “The process that you go through when you're detained, when you're going in front of an immigration judge, the different hurdles and obstacles and the absurdity of it all is why I tried to keep (the book) as accurate as possible.”
Impractical laws, Anderson said, are numerous: a law that places a 10-year immigration ban on illegal immigrants over eighteen who leave the country — a ban which does not apply to aliens who remain in the U.S.; laws that treat misdemeanor crimes, such as shoplifting, as aggravated felonies like murder or rape when committed by illegal immigrants; and laws that prevent the United States from granting asylum to those at risk of being tortured or killed in their home countries.
“These immigration laws that are so unforgiving, with sometimes permanent consequences that are so disproportionate to the actual crime committed,” Anderson said. “It's interesting to me that immigration has so many people with such strong opinions, most of whom are rarely informed. They've decided what their gut tells them is right and they're sticking to it without really understanding a lot of these laws.”11 comments on this story
And that is what Anderson hopes to change, or help to change, with his book. By giving readers a better understanding of real issues facing, in this case, fictional immigrants, Anderson can educate readers in a manner that is both entertaining and accessible. Citing the recent public outcry against immigrant families being separated at the borders, Anderson sees in the government's response to amend that practice a direct link between an informed citizenry and better immigration policies.
"If there is that kind of pressure, people are going to feel it (and) the elected officials are going to hopefully do something," he said. "I think just becoming informed about it (is the best way to enact change) — and that was kind of my point: to try to simplify the laws as much as possible in a way that's hopefully understandable."