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Visas for 6000 Lives

| Feb 8, 2024 | Firm News

I was in Los Angeles for a client’s marriage-based green card interview and stumbled upon the Chiune Sugihara Memorial while walking through Little Tokyo, which is near the USCIS office. My daily work involves visas, consulates, passports, and refugees, so I had to stop when I peeked at what the memorial was about. Sugihara was the Vice Consul of Japan in Lithuania during World War II and saved the lives of 6,000-10,000 Lithuanian Jews by issuing them visas to escape the holocaust. The descendants of those he saved today number about 40,000.

Sugihara defied protocol to issue the transit visas, which were unauthorized by his foreign ministry. He would work 18-20 hour days issuing a month’s worth of visas per day. When asked what his motivation was, he explained, “It is the kind of sentiments anyone would have when he actually sees refugees face to face.”

Sugihara’s mother came from a long line of samurai. The samurai tradition stressed duty and loyalty to country, but more importantly, morality, courage, and benevolence. As he said, “I thought this would be the right thing to do. There is nothing wrong in saving many people’s lives….The spirit of humanity, philanthropy…neighborly friendship…with this spirit, I ventured to do what I did, confronting this most difficult situation—and because of this reason, I went ahead with redoubled courage.”

My reference to Visas for 6000 Lives comes from the title of a book by Sugihara’s widow. This memorial is a reminder to always be brave and to always choose love over fear.

By Grace Alano.  Grace Alano is an immigration attorney at Alano Immigration in San Francisco, CA. Find Grace Alano on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.