In Memoriam: Maurice A. (Maury) Roberts
Maurice A. (Maury) Roberts died last week at the age of 91.
It is impossible to put into words the impact that Maury had on immigration law and policy. It is equally impossible to quantify his influence on those of us who, having also chosen this field of endeavor, were lucky enough to cross his path. How does one begin to describe the influence of a true giant in a given profession, one whose achievements stretched over half a century and whose impact will remain long after he is gone. He truly was, in the words of Senator Edward Kennedy, "Mr. Immigration."
Much has already been said and written about Maury's extraordinary accomplishments over his long life. Each of us knew him at different and distinct phases of that life. Many of us met Maury during his tenure at Interpreter Releases, which began after he retired from government service in 1974 and continued for 25 years. Others got to know him while he was Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals in the late 60s and early 70s. Still others met him during his long and distinguished service at the Department of Justice, during which he handled some of the most difficult and poignant proceedings that reflected the turmoil of World War II and the Cold War. And a very few may still remember Maury when he was a naturalization examiner in the early days of his career.
Regardless of when each of us first encountered him, we all share similar impressions. It is hard to think of someone who was as respected and admired. We all were in awe of his capacity for work, his sharp mind, his incredible memory, and his deep, uncompromising sense of justice. Maury was someone who loved immigration law, and he made others love it also. He was a truly incredible resource of knowledge and wisdom, and those of us who worked with him had the privilege of being able to tap that incredible resource on a daily basis.
I first met Maury in October 1987, when I began working at Interpreter Releases. The publisher of Interpreter Releases at that time, Federal Publications Inc., was throwing a 77th birthday party for him. The attendees included influential immigration attorneys, lobbyists, law professors, and government officials. I was amazed at the high regard and genuine affection displayed towards Maury. It became evident to me from the outset that this was a special individual, one of those rare persons whose influence was far-reaching and who had the ability to connect with a wide range of people.
Some of the nicest memories I have of Maury were the regular visits in the late 80s and early 90s to the offices of Interpreter Releases of Charlie Gordon, Maury's lifelong friend and another giant of immigration law. The two would spend hours in Maury's office discussing the latest developments in the courts and on Capitol Hill, as well, I suspect, as planning their frequent outings to dinner with their wives. Maury was devastated when Charlie died in 1999, and gave a moving tribute at the funeral that highlighted their deep professional and personal relationship.
Unlike Charlie, most of us got to know Maury when he was already an old man. While we were all impressed by his experience and wisdom, many of us were also drawn by his warmth and genuine kindness. He was always willing to talk with you, no matter how busy he was. He was always ready with a story, or a smile, or a bit of wisdom learned many years before. In essence, Maury was a grandfather to many of us, and we were his grandchildren. He embodied all of the qualities that we think of when we think of our grandfathers. He was kind. He was funny. He cared deeply about his family, including his extended family of people in the immigration field. He had a lifetime of experience and accomplishment that resulted in a great sense of perspective. He gave advice carefully, gently and with the certainty of someone who had seen it all.
Like his many professional writings and decisions, we, his many grandchildren, are his legacy. And it is one that will always cherish and honor.
It has been said that the true measure of a person's wealth is how much he was loved by others. If that is true, Maury Roberts is a very wealthy man.
About The Author
Juan Osuna is a member of the Board of Immigration Appeals, and was formerly the managing editor of Interpreter Releases. This article represents the author's personal views and does not necessarily represent the views of the Executive Office for Immigration Review or the US Department of Justice.