This is Orlando Bosch, a terrorist who was involved in the assassination of Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C. and the bombing of Cubana Airlines flight 455 in which 73 people were killed (among other crimes). He currently lives in Miami.
This is Emmanuel "Toto" Constant. He founded FRAPH, a death squad that was responsible for the torture and murder of hundreds of Haitians. After negotiations with the Clinton administration involving public threats to reveal of the full extent the CIA's involvement with FRAPH, he was allowed to live and work in the United States.
This is Michel Shehadeh. He's a Palestinian immigrant who has tirelessly exercised his First Amendment rights to promote the Palestinian cause in the United States--including selling the magazine of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1987.
So which of these three people would you think the US government spent over two decades trying to deport? Yes, somehow you guessed it. Shehadeh and seven other pro-Palestinian activists--better known as the L.A. Eight--were arrested by the US government for their nefarious magazine-selling activities, and were then subjected to a constantly-shifting series of legal maneuvers in an attempt to a) remove them from the country and b) establish the legal precedent that the US government can prosecute people for indirect and unintentional "support" of designated terrorist groups. The case was recently thrown out (the judge called it "an embarrassment to the rule of law") and then dropped, as you've probably heard; you can read more about it here or here.
On Wednesday night I attended an event in which Shehadeh and one of his lawyers (Marc Van Der Hout of the National Lawyers Guild) discussed the case, and the tremendous amount of time, effort, and dedication it took to get these ridiculous charges dropped. This may seem like a narrow victory, but it's anything but; four separate administrations pursued the case, and the government took it so seriously that it modified legislation (e.g. the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and the USA PATRIOT Act) with the specific intention of targeting the L.A. Eight and anyone else who engages in similar Constitutionally-protected activism. And the McCarthy-era McCarran-Walter Act, which allowed the deportation of immigrants based solely on their political activities, was declared unconstitutional in the course of the case. So the victory here has had important side effects, and has made it just that much harder for the government to pursue these kinds of attacks on our rights.
As I listened to Shehadeh and Van Der Hout I was struck just as I have been so many times in the past by the importance of the work that's done every day by groups like the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights (which along with the ACLU assisted the NLG in the L.A. Eight cases). There are plenty of activists who write letters, make phone calls, join and organize groups, attend lectures and protests, and so on, and what they do is important. But organizations like CCR and the NLG actually go out there and sue the bastards--and while the government regularly ignores activists, it can't ignore the courts. They drag the government in front of a judge, force it to answer for its actions, bring its dirty secrets to light, and halt or reverse its attempts to steal our rights. I can't think of anyone who's doing more important work right now.
Knocking lawyers has a long and distinguished pedigree (as the Shakespeare quote I used for the title illustrates), but now more than ever it's in the legal arena where the most important battles for civil, political, and human rights are taking place. So take a moment to consider the debt we owe to the lawyers who spend their time keeping us truly safe and genuinely free.