“What we rely on is the spirit that defines Diener Law: find a way. We continue to refuse to accept the standard beliefs or limited options for our immigrant friends. We believe if we care enough, if we try enough, we will find a way.”
MEET RICHARD “BERT” DIENER
It was 1994, and I was a young Marine stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I was a member of the Rifle Security Company Windward (remember the movie “A Few Good Men”), and my unit’s job was to provide security on the fence line separating ourselves from communist Cuba. While on the fence line, I had the experience of assisting Cubans escape their communist homeland. Most of those desperate souls walked through minefields; some swam through shark infested waters; but in every situation our government chose to accept and welcome them to the United States.
Fast forward to 2005. I was no longer in the Corps, I had graduated law school and I was living as a small-town lawyer in eastern North Carolina. My work was no different than any other local attorney. At least that was until I met Celia. One afternoon a Spanish-speaking woman walked into my office on a mission. She was determined to find answers for immigrants like herself. Celia was from Mexico and not one to stand for injustice. When I met Celia, she was trying to find someone to listen to yet another story of an immigrant mistreated by the system. Some of the stories she was carrying were horrible. But Celia was no victim, so she refused to accept the frustrations she and her community faced and sought help. Soon Celia would bring me more stories of immigrants desperate for action. Eventually it became a stream of similar experiences. Many of the issues we were facing were new to me, and I too had difficulty finding answers. What we relied on was the spirit that defines Diener Law: “find a way.” We continue to refuse to accept the standard beliefs or limited options for our immigrant friends. We believe if we care enough, if we try enough, we will find a way. This is what Celia demonstrated to me over and over again.
It didn’t take long to realize working with immigrants filled me with a sense of purpose, and it was my calling. I read once that you don’t find your calling, it finds you. In my situation Celia was the messenger. I find it ironic that the government trained me as a Marine to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. The irony is that after meeting Celia and representing so many immigrants, the biggest threat to the Constitution was from the government itself. And what my training didn’t teach me, but my faith did, is that helping those Cuban refugees is no more right than helping the undocumented immigrant population already here in America.
Diener Law’s mission has been extended to protect immigrants from insurance companies, individuals who prey on immigrants, and from even poverty itself. Injustice comes in many forms, and I am honored to know Celia and am thankful for the lessons she has taught me. And still to this day, I get calls from Celia to take action. Looking in hindsight, I can see it all was meant to be. My last name is German and means “servant.”