Saturday, April 5, 2008
Sad news from Peter Schey:
Ira Gollobin, a renowned civil rights and immigration lawyer, who practiced law in New York City for over 70 years, acting as attorney in many high profile immigration and extradition cases from the 1950s to the 1980s, passed away this morning in New York. Ira was 96 years old. Ira passed away peacefully following several days of hospitalization for a staph infection.
Ira served on the Board of Directors of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law for 25 years. He was a long-time active member of the National Lawyers Guild. He will be deeply missed by those who were honored to meet and learn from him along his 96-year life journey.
Ira wrote numerous periodical articles on immigration policy, dialectics, East Asia, and Marxist theory. He is the author of Dialectical Materialism: Its Laws, Categories, and Practice (1986), and Winds of Change: An Immigration Lawyer’s Perspective of Fifty Years (1987).
Ira’s epic book on dialectical materialism is a comprehensive review of Marxist philosophy, integrated into subjects ranging from workers to politics to human consciousness. For those interested in the relationship between history, philosophy, politics, consciousness, and the struggle for freedom, this is a book you want to read. If you use a highlighter, forget it. You’ll want to highlight the whole book.
Ira served as general counsel to the American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born throughout the McCarthy period. During the Cold War witch-hunt to identify and deport immigrant “communist sympathizers,” Ira and the American Committee coordinated the legal defense of immigrant workers, labor leaders, authors, and others for their real or perceived communist beliefs or associations.
In 1980 Ira put together a team of lawyers including Ira Kurzban, Rick Swartz, and me to work on the Haitian Refugee Center v. Smith case. Under his guidance, and with the help of many others, we won a major class-wide injunction that blocked an “expedited deportation program” initiated by the INS-headquarters to quickly deport of over 5,000 Haitian refugees deemed a “threat” to South Florida. After a class-wide permanent injunction we won was upheld in the Court of Appeals (Haitian Refugee Center v. Smith, 676 F.2d 1023 (1982)), the first Haitian adjustment act (that Ira and Rick helped draft and get enacted) granted all class members permanent resident status. Ira was the architect of this victory.
In the last chapter of his book, a chapter on wisdom, Ira wrote:
Class society places its imprint on wisdom. The musings of the sage .... and the guile of the rulers ... have been acclaimed as wellsprings of wisdom, while the masses' hard earned experience and insights, gained in labor and class struggle amid a multitude of afflictions, have been denigrated by oppressors as responses, sometimes docile, sometimes violent, of beings little above the level of brutes. On the contrary, as regards the oppressed, those with the most practical experience are the wisest and most capable. All wisdom comes from the masses ... The wisdom of tens of millions of creators creates something incomparably higher than the greatest prediction of genius. (Quotations and citations omitted).
Ira was a unique intellectual adventurer and a lawyer whose passion for justice was easily matched by his clients’ love and affection for him. We will miss him, and his guidance, very deeply. We will always treasure what he brought to each of us and to humanity’s struggle for emancipation.
Peter A. Schey
President and Executive Director
Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law