I read the press release for the book and was intrigued. A novel concerning the minefield of legal issues that a would be immigrant faces in gaining legal status in the US. Add to this that Shah Peerally is an Immigration Lawyer in real life, I was hooked.

The immigration process is long and boring at the best of times, but can become far more complex at the blink of an eye.

At under 80 pages The Immigration Lawyer, hardly seemed a daunting task to read. My question was how much can be fit on such a small canvas. The answer is a great deal.

The date is 2005, Ahmad, an Iraqi chemical engineer is making his third visit to the US in three years, it is simply a vacation to visit with some family members. Also an opportunity to spend some time to smell fresh air and try and forget the brutality of the Sadam Hussein regime. He has many reasons to avoid going back to Iraq. The opening paragraph says it all:

The year is 2002. Somewhere in the Middle East, in a cold dungeon, sits a man named Ahmad. There is no light. The room is so cold the man’s presence can barely be seen or felt. The room is dirty and not furnished with anything—not even hope. From afar, one can see that the man is tied up and that he carries huge weights attached to his neck, which his body does not have the strength to bear. He appears miserable as he coughs and sweats. Peace is far, far away.

Things go south at the immigration desk, even though he has the right passport and visa, he does not receive the usual “Welcome to the U.S., enjoy your visit” greeting. Instead he is invited (polite term for taken) to have a private chat with some immigration officials. And so starts an unexpected  odyssey for Ahmad. Abused at home, he now faces abuse in the country that he thought was the land of the free.

Ahmad is caught between a rock and a hard place. To go home marked as Persona Non Gratis by the US will surely result  in another bout of torture, and likely death at the hands of Sadam’s henchmen.

Out of options, Ahmad seeks Political Asylum. But even this route is fraught with problems.

It would be a huge disservice to Shah Peerally to share more of the plot. I leave the reader to discover the rest of the story.

I will however make some general observations. The author clearly understands the subject, and that makes this a great, if too short read. What I enjoyed are some of the nuances, the minor asides. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the life of being a refugee is not an easy one. Ahmad is lucky, he has people to help him, even better, people from other cultures that join for the common good.

You can get your own copy of this interesting book by clicking on the Amazon link above. You can also find out more about the author and the subject of immigration at www.peerallylaw.com

Simon Barrett

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