Shahid Haque-Hausrath's work helping people immigrate to Montana is seemingly simple. His clients want to live in the state he chose to call home.
But, the mountains of paperwork and sometimes years of hearings are complex and require tenacity. Immigration law is a specialized field, which he anticipates will grow more difficult to negotiate within the current political climate.
"I've always felt there is no wrong side to allowing someone to live in our state and contribute to our diversity," he said. "You're never on the wrong side."
Through the last decade, Haque-Hausrath has assisted upwards of 1,500 immigrants through his Border Crossing Law Firm, which is based in Helena.
"I made that my life mission, basically," he said. Haque-Hausrath, the son of immigrants from Pakistan, began working with asylum seekers while in law school.
Although he's proud of this success rate, it's the ones the lawyer couldn't help that he thought of recently when he accepted an award for his work from the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana.
"I'd like to dedicate this award to all the undocumented people who have no path to alleviate their fears and are waiting and biding their time for laws to change, who live their lives here knowing that they stick out and that all it will take is one bad cop or one vindictive neighbor to risk being separated from their families. These people who check in with me every time they hear about a new policy designed to make them even more afraid, even less secure. They have been bearing this burden for far, far too long, but they are doing it with so much more grace than I could ever muster," Haque-Hausrath said during his acceptance speech for the 2017 Jeannette Rankin Civil Liberties Award last week.
"This year, more than any other year, immigrants in Montana are scared. They are going to need your support, in whatever form you can give it," he added.
While the acknowledgment served as somewhat of a shock to Haque-Hausrath, those who chose him for the honor said the selection was an easy one. He was chosen unanimously.
Caitlin Borgmann, the executive director of ACLU of Montana, said the timing of the award couldn't have been more important as immigrant rights are under attack and are one of the organization's main priorities right now. Haque-Hausrath's dedication to giving voice to the stories and concerns of refugees and immigrants is vital, she said.
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"It's hard to overstate the dedication he has for his clients," Borgmann said.
Haque-Hausrath said in addition to drawing upon his law knowledge, sometimes his clients need someone to listen.
"I'm their lawyer and their person. I've been part counselor in a lot of respects," he said.
Borgmann said Haque-Hausrath shows such compassion for the people he works with that sometimes she can see the toll the job takes.
"I'm so happy we could in some small way acknowledge the burden he carries," she said.
Those chosen to receive the award, named after the ACLU's first vice president, are dedicated advocates.
"He's the perfect embodiment of the award," Borgmann said.
Receiving the acknowledgement, Haque-Hausrath said, has helped to renew his dedication to his passion.
"It definitely revitalized my drive to keep doing this," he said.